March 2013, Issue 136

unpan-ap@sass.org.cn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Bank Calls for Global Initiative to Scale Up Geothermal Energy in Developing Countries

Security Remains a Top Investment Priority for IT amid Mobile Workplace Evolution

The Open E-Government Strategy for Cities
UN Commission on Women Ends with Adoption of Global Plan to End Gender-Based Violence

ADB Toughens Anti-corruption Drive

New Initiative to Fight TB Spread in Asia-Pacific

 

 

 

 

CHINA: New National Legislature Sees More Diversity
Plan to Grow Broadband Users
China to ‘Firmly Rein’ in Property Speculation
China to Continue ‘Proactive Fiscal, Prudent Monetary’ Policy
China Improves Legislation to Protect Human Rights: Wu
China Improves People's Democracy Through Legislation: Wu
China Strengthens Legal Supervision Over Food Safety: Wu
China Tackles Environment Issues Through Legislation
Nation Set to Expand Smart Cities Project
JAPAN: Govt to Bolster Ban on Corporal Punishment
Consumer Law Reforms Eyed
Ways to Replace Bankruptcy Protection Law Eyed
Abe Vows to Change Constitution, Reestablish 'Proud Japan'

Kuroda Emphasizes BOJ's Change in Policy

Park's Office Implores Lawmakers to Pass Gov't Reorganization Bill

SOUTH KOREA: Park's Office Implores Lawmakers to Pass Gov't Reorganization Bill Korea's Biggest Urban Development Project Goes Bust

Political Parties Push Stronger Anti-smoking Measures

MONGOLIA: Kh.Temuujin Introduces the Innovation Policy in Legal Department

 

 

 

 

CAMBODIA: Launching Green Growth Plan 2013-2030
Cambodian PM Orders "Strict Measures" to Curb Bird Flu Outbreaks
PHILIPPINES: City Improves Land Use Plan with GIS
The Philippines Signs ICT Agreement with Spain
SINGAPORE: MPs Welcome Govt's Schemes to Help Low Income, Elderly S'poreans
News Analysis: Singapore Tightens Foreign Worker Policies, Aiming to Drive Productivity
Singapore Plans to Double Speed of Free Wifi
Various Programmes to Help New Immigrants Integrate Well in S'pore

THAILAND: New Measures Needed to Curb Energy Imports

Thailand Updates OTPC Tablet Project in 2013

VIETNAM: To Limit Use of Cash for Large Transactions

 

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Draft of Nat`L ICT Policy to Be Placed Before Cabinet Monday
Cabinet Approves Draft of ‘Hajj Package 2013’

INDIA: Launching National Cloud Initiative

India to Unveil Cyber Security Policy Soon

Govt. Has Set Norms for Attracting FDI for Development of Airport, Says Ajit Singh

SRI LANKA: Two New Drinking Water Projects for North

MALDIVES: Political Party Bill Passed with Automatic Presidential Assent

NEPAL: Court Stays Govt's One-Door Ad Policy

PAKISTAN: Govt Taking Measures to Meet Energy Needs

 

 

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Communications Ministry to Support 'Electronic Village' Project

Azerbaijan Passes New Law to Protect Children

Azerbaijani Parliament Passes Government's Report as of 2012
Azerbaijan to Approve ICT Action Plan Soon

Azerbaijani State Oil Fund Announces Plans for 2013

KAZAKHSTAN: Over Three Trillion Tenge to Be Allotted to Employment Programme 2013-2015

Kazakh Government to Consider Amendments to Law on Subsoil

TURKMENISTAN: Regulations on Housing Privatisation Adopted

Turkmenistan Ratifies Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation with Switzerland

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA: Join Convention on Cybercrime Treaty

Australia to Take Further Action to Eliminate Modern Slavery: PM

FIJI: Draft Constitution Released

KIRIBATI: SPC Prepares Kiribati Advocates for Consultations on Violence Against Women Legislation

NEW ZEALAND: Focus Goes on Latin America

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Government to Push Infrastructure Development - PM O'Neill

 

 

 

 

Good Governance Enhances Budget Oversight

Promoting Cooperation on Data Transfer Systems Between Europe and the Asia-Pacific

 

 

CHINA: Migrant Worker Deputies Increase in NPC

Highlights: Premier Wen's Government Work Report
'Chinese Dream' a New Point of Departure for Political Thinking
Top Legislator Vows to Push 'Rule of Law'
Highlights: Report on Cabinet Reshuffle Plan

More Than 30 Ministerial Level Officials Investigated

CPPCC Vows Not to Copy Western Political Systems

CPPCC Vows to Promote Consultative Democracy

NPC Endorses Plan to Revamp Cabinet

Xi Elected President, CMC Chairman

Li Keqiang Endorsed as Chinese Premier

Premier Li Nominates New Cabinet Members

China’s Institutional Reform Goes with the Tide of the Globe

JAPAN: New System to Foster General Practitioners

SOUTH KOREA: Rival Parties Reach Agreement on Gov't Restructuring Plan

Improve Constitutional Court Vacuum

Public Servants to Exceed 1 Million

 

 

MYANMAR: Union Parliament Approves Formation of Committee for Constitution Amendment
MALAYSIA: Civil Servants Discuss Path to Open Government

Malaysia Appoints New Director General for Public Services

SINGAPORE: Govt Has Zero Tolerance Policy Towards Corruption

Govt to Continue Making Transport System More Elderly-Friendly

THAILAND: Launching Intelligent Transport System Project

VIETNAM: Central Internal Affairs appointments

 

 

INDIA: Andhra to Have National Institute of Electronics & IT

MALDIVES: Corruption Level Remains Unchanged ACC

Amendment for Secret Votes Back to Committee

Maldives Establishes Passenger Information System

Maldives to Introduce a Police Reserve Force Soon

NEPAL: Govt Decides to Retain Local Peace Committees

Govt Holds Interaction with Election Commission Officials

PAKISTAN: Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on 'Future of SAARC' Tomorrow

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: President Receives Deputy Director of IMF’s Department

Azerbaijani Government Is on a Good Path: OSCE Office Head

KYRGYZSTAN: Appoints Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers

KAZAKHSTAN: Leader Receives High-Ranking Officials

New Requirements for Government Officials

Deputy Chairmen Appointed to Kazakh National Security Committee

TURKMENISTAN: Begins Nominating Candidates to Local Self-Governing Bodies

 

 

AUSTRALIA: City Police Connect with Citizens Online

NEW ZEALAND: Reforms' Emphasis Too Heavy on Economic Gain

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: New Tax Review Board Set Up

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Clerk of Parliament Takes RAMSI Award for Women

UNDP Spearheads Reform Ahead of Solomons Election

 

 

 

Country-Specific Climate Vulnerability Data Now Online

Data Enthusiasts Convene at the Bank to Tackle Poverty and Anti-Corruption

OECD Releases First Comprehensive Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-Being

APEC-ASEAN Laying Foundation for Green Building Development

3 in 4 Asia-Pacific Nations Facing Water Security Threat – Study

Asia-Pacific Facing Water Crisis: ADB

Good Debt Management Ensures Region's Stability

 

 

CHINA: Exploring Ways to Make Legislation More Scientific, Democratic: Wu

China's Top Legislature Seeks Innovation in Supervision: Wu

Gov't to Take Over Unqualified Civil Charity Orgs

China's Anti-graft Efforts to Get Institutional Impetus

JAPAN: Govt Eyes Tuition Aid Increase

Japan Sees Increase in Solitary Non-Employed Persons

Govt Mulls Support for Firms Hit by Fuel Costs

SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Ease Inflation Burden on Ordinary Citizens

S. Korea’s Medical Services Reach Out to Every Corner of the World

New Commerce Minister Vows to Create Jobs, Growth Engines

Korea Leads New Era of Eco-Friendly Cars

 

 

INDONESIA: Jakarta to Leverage Use of Geospatial Data for Decision Making
MYANMAR: Making Efforts to Promote Agricultural Development

PHILIPPINES: Mandatory Biometric Voter Registration Introduced

The Philippines Improves Project Management with Geo-Tagging

The Philippines to Standardise Template of Government Websites

SINGAPORE: On Track to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 7% to 11%

Singapore to Install CCTVs to Control Parking

THAILAND: To Launch Mobile App for Income Tax Submission

Thailand to Set Up New Mapping Database

Thailand’s Smart City Steps Up Network Progress

VIETNAM: City to Launch Smart Transport Management System

Vietnam to Prioritize Sustainable Conservation and Management of Water Resources: PM

 

 

BANGLADESH: Up on Human Development Scale

Poverty Reduction Bangladesh Identified as ‘Star Performer’

INDIA: NIIT Technologies Launches CCTNS Project in Odisha

SRI LANKA: Proposed Power Tariff Hikes Open for Public Comment

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: Timing Announced for Commercial Sale of First Satellite's Resources to Foreign Markets

Microsoft Azerbaijan Innovation Day to Take Place in Baku

Azerbaijan's Government Sums Up 2012 Economic Performance

KAZAKHSTAN: Foreigners Arriving in Kazakhstan Can Be Registered Online

TURKMENISTAN: Securities Market Formed

Turkmenistan Introduces Compulsory Environmental Insurance

Turkmenistan to Establish State Service of Intellectual Property

UZBEKISTAN: International Solar Energy Institute to Be Created

New Research Centre for Economic Development to Be Created in Uzbekistan

Uzbek Economic Court Extends Temporary Governance in MTS’s Subsidiary

 

 

Global Human Development Report Offers Opportunities for Pacific Islands to Gain from the South-South

A Pacific-led Vision for HIV and Other STIs in the Pacific

Women Struggle for a Place in the Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Ranked Second in UN Development Report

Australia Leverages Robotics Technology for Education

COOK ISLANDS: Look at Youth Issues

FIJI: Recovering and Sustaining Livelihoods, Communities Continue on Strong After Floods

NEW ZEALAND: First Pushes Health Insurance Rebate

New Zealand Streamlines E-Health with Robotics Technology

IMF Report Shows Cool Heads Needed on Economy

Welfare Changes Come Step Closer

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Grappling with Ageing Health Workforce

 

 

 

Ensure Economic Progress Is Equitable and Inclusive

The Best (and Worst) Countries for Cloud Computing

Cybersecurity Challenges in 2013

International Women’s Day 2013: Time to Gain Momentum on Gender Equality

Developing Countries to Get Access to 12,000 Online Research Books

New Index Shows Asia Is Closer but Future Cooperation Will Be Hard Won

Asia Pacific Telecom Transiting from Voice to Mobile Internet-Access Services

APEC-Wide Deal on E-Commerce Tax Avoidance Proposed

Asia 'At Risk of Emerging Credit Bubble'

 

 

CHINA: Consensus Reached on Central China Economic Belt

China Keeps 2013 GDP Growth Target Unchanged at 7.5%

China Second on Forbes List of Richest

Expanding Cities to Drive the Economy

Online Info Rules Help Promote Social Harmony

China to Ensure Online Payment Safety

China Capable of Sustaining Economic Growth

Cyber Attack Battlefield: The Clash of Victimhood

China's Economy May See Strong Rebound

Confidence Improves amid Inflation Worries

Xi: BRICS Cooperation Benefits World Economy

China Seeks Greater Cybercooperation

China's Growth Powers World Economy

Chinese Economic Growth to See Turning Point in 2015

JAPAN: Govt Revises Up Economic View

SOUTH KOREA: E-Commerce Sales Hit All-Time High in 2012

Economic Activity Rate to Fall Below 60%

Science Basis for Strong Economy, Job Creation

Shadow Economy Equals to 25% of GDP

MONGOLIA: Mineral Deposits to Be Put into Economic Circulation

 

 

MYANMAR: To Introduce E-Payment Card in Foreign Countries

Myanmar to Improve Competitiveness with ICT

PHILIPPINES: To Deploy Biometrics for Travellers Documentation

Kindergarten Students Taught ICT in Philippine City

SINGAPORE: ICT Enabled Work-From-Home Pilot Launched

THAILAND: Digital Radio Mulled for 2013

Thailand to Cover 27,231 Schools with Internet

Thailand’s City Municipality Provides 1,000 Hot Spots for Free Wi-Fi

Thailand to Deliver Payment Services to Home

VIETNAM: City Needs More Human Resources in IT Sector

Vietnam Local Government Highlights Importance of IT Standards

 

 

Goa Police Decide to Install CCTNS

Free Electricity Connections in SC, ST & BPL Households

Integrated Systems for Better E-Gov Experts

New Bus Tracking System Unveiled

NEPAL: Public Transportation Fare Hike Comes into Effect

PAKISTAN: PPP-Led Govt Took Poverty Reduction Steps, Provided 165,000 Jobs Sindh CM

Govt Laid Great Importance on Creating Opportunities to Make Education Accessible to All Ibad

Utility Stores Beneficial Especially for People from Low Income Group

Computers & IT Playing Key Role in Every Field

Govt Provides Basic Facilities to Masses AJK PM

INDIA: Majority of Children Online to Be from India in 2017

 

 

KYRGYZSTAN: GDP Ups by 8 Percent

KAZAKHSTAN: To Regulate Wholesale Pricing of Petroleum Products

Co-operation in IT-Sphere

E-Procurement Allows Savings on Budget Assets in Kazakhstan

TAJIKISTAN: Officially Joins WTO

TURKMENISTAN: GDP Increases by 9.2 Per Cent in 2013

Positive Movement in Transport Development Observed in Turkmenistan

AZERBAIJAN: Minister - Asian Market of Interest for Export of Goods and Services

Number of E-Signature Holders Nearly Doubled by March

Azerbaijan One of World's Fastest Growing Economies: IMF

Average GDP Growth in Azerbaijan Totals 13 Per Cent in 10 Years

Brands Expected to Protect Domain Names on Their Own in Azerbaijan

High-Tech Park to Boost Azerbaijani Software Market: Ministry

ICT Services Worth $300m Provided to Azerbaijani Population in Two Months

 

 

MSG Needs a New Roadmap for the Next 25 Years

Australia Beats Most of the World in Preparation for Cloud Adoption

State of Victoria in Australia Revamps Website

FIJI: Computerisation 20 Years Forward, Information 30 Years Backwards

E-ticketing Compulsory for All Buses

NEW ZEALAND: Ultrafast Broadband Uptake Less Than 3pc

Kiwis Choose Online Option for Census 2013

Online Census Proves Popular in New Zealand

New Zealand to Deploy Cloud Computing Services

TONGA: Economy Facing Pressure - Report

AUSTRALIA: Queensland Government Sheds Light on ICT Priorities

 

 

 

Flows into Asia Bond Markets Raise Risk of Asset Price Bubbles

International Financial Institutions Call for More Coordination on Global Development

World Spent $3.6 TREEELLION on ICT in 2012 – Analyst

UN: Disaster Losses Hit $138 Billion in 2012

$425 Billion Gap in Trade Finance Hits at Growth and Jobs in Asia

ADB Prices $2.5 Billion 3-Year Global Bond

 

 

Debt Write-Off Plan Triggers Moral Hazard
S. Korea Pushes for 10 Tln Won Extra Budget to Boost Economy

MONGOLIA: Bank of Mongolia Launches ‘Interest Rate Corridor’

CHINA: Cities Need Fiscal Support in Urbanization Drive

575 Bln Yuan Goes to Social Security

China Defense Budget to Grow 10.7% in 2013

China Increases 2013 Deficit to 1.2 Trillion Yuan

China Lowers 2013 Inflation Target to 3.5%

China's Fiscal Revenue Grows Slower Jan., Feb.

Chinese Banks Earnings Growth Slows

JAPAN: Govt Submits FY13 Draft Budget to Diet

Japan Could Miss Fiscal Target Even with 3% Economic Growth: Gov't Document

BOJ Nominees Mix Bold Policies with Caution

SOUTH KOREA: Finance Minister to Push for Tax on Religious Community

Koreans Spent $4 Billion on Overseas Study Last Year

Japan Posts Y777.5 Bil Trade Deficit in February

 

 

Govt Sets Aside S$40m Over 3 Years to Promote Pro-Family Initiatives

VIETNAM: WB Provides 200 Mln USD Loan for Water Program

MYANMAR: Parliament Approves 2013-14 Re-Drawn State Budget

PHILIPPINES: To Keep Budget Deficit at 2 Pct of GDP in 2014

SINGAPORE: Budget 2013 - Govt Projects Budget Surplus of S$2.4B for FY2013

 

 

NEPAL: Govt Signs Rs 14.16 b Loan Agreement with JICA for 140 Mw Tanahun Hydropower

PAKISTAN: Minister Inaugurates Rs 350mn Projects for Khattaknama

INDIA: Govt Takes Steps for Accountability

Rural Sector Gets Major Boost in Budget 2013-14

SRI LANKA: Govt Allocates Rs 14,350 M for Public Sector Graduates’ Wages

Sri Lanka to Build Roads with Rs150bn in Bank Finance

 

 

UZBEKISTAN: Increasing Prices for Electricity

 

 

 

 

 

 

New World Bank Group Strategy to Support Economic Diversification and Private Sector Development

Asia's Top Companies Wary About Business Outlook: Survey

 

 

China to Cap Pollutant Emissions in 6 Industries

China to Launch New Railway Corporation

China's Robot Sector Witnesses Increasing Demand

China Gets New Food, Drug Regulator

JAPAN: Govt OK's Ultra-minicar Projects

Firms Offering 'Unique Experience' Programs

New Turnaround Fund Aims to Help Small Firms

Investment Funds Return to Real Estate

SOUTH KOREA: Financial Firms Vulnerable to Hacking

KDB's 'Techno Banking' Draws Interest from SMEs

CHINA: Mobile Fair May Boost Chinese Handsets

China to Be Global Premium Car Leader

China to Further 'Stimulate' Private Investment

TEPCO to Invest Extra 50 Bil. Yen for Plant Safety

 

 

THAILAND: 12 New Zones to Be Offered for Development

MYANMAR: Allowing Eight Private Daily Newspaper Publication

MALAYSIA: Defers New Minimum Wages for Foreign Workers in SMEs

PHILIPPINES: RFID to Be Used in ‘Smarter Philippines’ Programme

SINGAPORE: More Help for SMEs to Restructure & Achieve Quality Growth

More Help for SMEs to Venture Overseas

 

 

NEPAL: Private Sector Demands Security

PAKISTAN: Small-Medium Enterprises to Be Provided Credit Apna Bank

Govt Help Sought to Recover Dues from Textile Sector

 

 

AZERBAIJAN: IMF Forecasts 9% Growth in Non-Oil Sector This Year

Romanian Company Intends to Cooperate with Azerbaijan in ICT

Azerbaijan Increases Funding of Agriculture Sector

Azerbaijan Predicts 18 Percent Increase in Non-Oil Industry

IRAN: Private Sector Stops Crude Oil Exports

KAZAKHSTAN: To Increase Support of Geological Sector

TURKMENISTAN: Records High Figures in Transport Sector

UZBEKISTAN: MTS May Leave Mobile Communication Market

 

 

Online Registries Critical to Pacific Private Sector Development

AUSTRALIA: Public-Private Partnership a Challenge for Cybercrime Centers

FIJI: Private Sector Driving Growth

NEW ZEALAND: Businesses Support International Women’s Day

New Zealand Govt Signals Moves to Favor Local Firms in Procurement

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World Bank Calls for Global Initiative to Scale Up Geothermal Energy in Developing Countries

 

The World Bank today announced a major international effort to expand renewable power generation in developing countries by tapping an underutilized resource: geothermal energy. World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati called on donors, multilateral banks, governments and the private sector to join a Global Geothermal Development Plan (GGDP) to better manage and reduce risks of exploratory drilling to bring what is now a marginal renewable energy source into the mainstream, and deliver power to millions.  “Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally-produced power.  And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless,” said Sri Mulyani Indrawati.  “The World Bank Group, and many of our partners, support the goals of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and our President Jim Yong Kim. Two of those goals are universal access to modern energy services, and doubling the world’s proportion of renewable energy. Geothermal energy, mobilized by the Global Geothermal Development Plan, will be a major step towards both.”

 

Sri Mulyani launched the plan at the Iceland Geothermal Conference in Reykjavík. Already, the World Bank and Iceland are working together under a “Geothermal Compact” to support surface exploration studies and technical assistance for countries in Africa’s Rift Valley. Many developing world regions are rich in geothermal resources, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Andean region. At least forty countries have enough geothermal potential to meet a significant proportion of their electricity demand. Some countries, such as Kenya and Indonesia, are developing their geothermal resources, but with only 11 gigawatts of geothermal capacity worldwide, a global scale-up has yet to happen. An obstacle is the initial test drilling phase for geothermal projects, which is expensive and risky.  Proving the viability of a single steam field can cost US$15-25 million, and if a site has no potential, this investment is lost. The GGDP expands on previous efforts by its global scope, and its focus on test drilling. The GGDP will identify promising sites and leverage financing for exploratory drilling, to develop commercially viable projects.  It will build on regional efforts such as the Iceland-World Bank Geothermal Compact.

 

“Until now, our work has been at the country and regional levels,” Sri Mulyani said. “These efforts are important, and should continue.  But a global push is what is needed now. Only a global effort will put geothermal energy in its rightful place – as a primary energy source for many developing countries.  Only a global effort will pool resources to spread the risk effectively. It will let us learn from each other, from our failures and successes, and apply that learning.” The Global Geothermal Development Plan’s initial target is to mobilize US$500 million. Donors can participate in the GGDP by helping to identify viable projects, and through bilateral assistance, as well as existing channels such as the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) or the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  The GGDP would be managed by the World Bank’s longstanding Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). The World Bank will convene donors later this year to discuss financing of specific geothermal projects under the plan. The Bank Group’s financing for geothermal development has increased from $73 million in 2007 to $336 million in 2012, and now represents almost 10 percent of the Bank’s total renewable energy lending.

From http://www.worldbank.org 03/06/2013

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Security Remains a Top Investment Priority for IT amid Mobile Workplace Evolution

 

As enterprises evolve to become more mobile and, in essence, geographically limitless, IT decision makers are continuing to grapple with reducing complexity and balancing investment against cost-cutting, but they are committed to addressing core IT challenges such as security threats. That’s the word from Cisco’s TechWatch 2013 report, which found that this year IT decision makers will look to pave the way for greater connectivity by investing in IT infrastructure and collaboration technologies. IT decision-makers face numerous market evolutions that are challenging and testing IT infrastructure and networks. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends, cloud computing and big data have seen end users become increasingly demanding with the experiences they expect to receive. At the same time, next-generation workspaces will be a reality for three in four (76%) businesses by 2016, which are investing in new technologies to enable distributed working environments. The IT department is under pressure to carefully manage these growing trends, but there remains the need to balance investment against streamlining and security.

 

“In 2013 we can expect to see IT get back to basics,” said Ian Foddering, CTO at Cisco UK and Ireland. “The macro challenges which IT decision-makers face are clear and well-defined, but what TechWatch shows us is how IT intends to meet these challenges. The research shows us that whilst cost-cutting and reducing complexity is important, creating an environment where IT can support – or indeed drive – innovation within the business is paramount. The IT department is more crucial now to future development than ever before.” He said that three key pillars have emerged:  simplify, protect and change and grow. “Get the first two right, and you pave the way for innovation, greater connectivity, next-generation workspaces and ultimately a shift towards the ‘Internet of Everything,’” he added. After network performance (51%), businesses said that increased security threats (48% enterprises, 44% SMEs) are the most significant challenges facing businesses over the next 12 months. Thus, improving IT security (60% enterprises, 55% SMEs) is one of the main spending priorities over the coming 12 months, surpassed only by reducing overall IT costs (60% enterprises, 56% SMEs).

 

“There is overwhelming support for greater remote working, and it is encouraging that businesses are taking measures to protect important information and help maximize data security,” Foddering continues. “This is essential if, as the research shows, 76% of all businesses intend to operate as future workspaces in the next three years. However, simplifying and protecting an organization’s infrastructure can only take you so far. In order for businesses to prepare themselves for the future, they must be willing to embrace change and use it to drive, rather than inhibit, growth.” The security landscape will most certainly change profoundly. Within the next three years, 76% of companies think operations in their organization will be structured on the basis of the most efficient use of skills and resources, regardless of where they are located – 15% say this is already happening. This is reflected in terms of technology investment: enterprises are more likely to have deployed collaborative software (79%) and network performance management (78%), but both enterprises and SMEs have prioritized the investment of remote access technology (78% and 77%, respectively). Foddering concludes, “The network lies at the heart of much of this change. Networking performance was found to be the greatest challenge facing IT at the moment, up significantly (15%) amongst enterprises compared to 2011. Organizations will need to work closely with strategic partners, like Cisco, who understand the needs of the public and private sector and who can guide them through change, if they are to successfully solve today's business problems and shape their organization for the future.”

From http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com 03/07/2013

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The Open E-Government Strategy for Cities

 

Open City Portal is an open-source platform developed by a network of several development institutions and universities to help even small cities in developing countries to be able to install their own customised citizen-centric city portals, through which the cities can achieve most of the e-Government goals: two-way communication with citizens and creating a single window for every city service categories. Using its knowledge sharing function, the Open City Portal supports various participatory urban and regional initiatives, such as sustainable cities, and Digital Local Agenda.

From http://ictpost.com/ 03/16/2013

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UN Commission on Women Ends with Adoption of Global Plan to End Gender-Based Violence

 

Top United Nations officials  has welcomed an agreement by more than 130 Member States on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, and urged governments to translate the outcome of the 'historic' gathering into concrete actions to protect and promote women's human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement attributable to his spokesperson. “The Secretary-General hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls,” the spokesperson added. Thousands of representatives of governments, inter-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and UN partners collaborated on the outcome document of the two-week 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The 17-page 'Agreed Conclusions' of the Commission “condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls, and calls for increased attention and accelerated action for prevention and response,” said in a statement the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), which supports the Commission.

 

UN Women said it welcomed the important focus on prevention in the document, particularly through education and awareness-raising, as well as an emphasis on addressing gender inequalities in the political, economic and social spheres. Among the priorities in the document is the establishment of multi-sectoral services for survivors of violence, including for health, psychological support and counselling, as well as the need to protect the right to sexual and reproductive health. Ending impunity is also highlighted in the text, according to UN Women, in the context of punishing perpetrators, along with improving collection of evidence and responding to victims. As many as seven out of every 10 women will experience violence in their lifetimes, according to UN figures. While more than 125 countries have specific laws that penalize domestic violence, some 603 million women live in countries where it is not considered a crime. “By adopting this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century,” the UN entity said. “There is no turning back.” UN Women's Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet said she was “particularly heartened” that an agreement was reached now given that in 2003, when the Commission took up the topic of violence against women, participants could not agree on a plan. “We will keep moving forward to the day when women and girls can live free of fear, violence and discrimination. The 21st century is the century of inclusion and women's full and equal rights and participation,” added Bachelet.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/18/2013

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ADB Toughens Anti-corruption Drive

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) toughened measures to battle fraud and corruption in 2012, as complaints reached a new annual high. "At a time when many donors are implementing austerity measures, those entrusted with development mandates have an obligation to use a steadily declining pool of development funds. When development funds are diverted or misused, people with real needs are deprived of basic services, rights, and opportunities,” said Clare Wee, Head of ADB’s Office of Anticorruption and Integrity (OAI). In its Annual Report released today, OAI reported a record 240 complaints in 2012, and the opening of 114 new investigations. Sanctions were imposed on a total of 42 firms and 38 individuals. The bulk of the complaints involved fraudulent misrepresentations about qualifications, experience, and technical capabilities of consulting firms, contractors and individuals seeking work from ADB. In addition, a total of 57 firms and 51 individuals were barred from seeking ADB-financed contracts as part of a cross debarment agreement forged between ADB and four other multilateral development banks.

 

ADB has zero tolerance for corruption. OAI continued to inform and empower staff, civil society and the private sector with tools to fight fraud and corruption and prevent abuse of funds. The report notes numerous positive developments, including several major international firms working on ADB-assisted projects who voluntarily reported suspected integrity violations to OAI after internal company audits. In 2012, OAI piloted project procurement-related spot reviews aimed at strengthening project monitoring and compliance. The reviews provide hands-on support and skills transfers to ADB’s operations departments to improve project supervision and ensure projects fully deliver their intended development outcomes. Lessons from similar reviews over the last 10 years have been developed into toolkits that are shared and used by other international financial institutions. To prevent fraud and corruption in ADB projects, OAI provides substantial support and advice to management and project teams on issues relating to integrity, money laundering, and financing of terrorism risks, particularly for its public and private sector projects. For 2013, OAI will continue to channel its work to ADB’s front line, to maximize opportunities for ensuring ADB’s development funds are used with regard to value for money, for their intended purposes, and not usurped through fraudulent or corrupt practices. It will adopt and continue measures such as increased support for Resident Mission staff, customized project procurement related reviews, and enhanced capacity for due diligence advice.

From http://www.adb.org/ 03/04/2013

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New Initiative to Fight TB Spread in Asia-Pacific

 

A new multi-national research centre has been set up to stop the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in Australia, and reduce its impact on the Asia-Pacific region. The Centre of Research Excellence in TB Control (TB-CRE), has opened at the Centenary Institute in Sydney. The $2.5 million initiative brings together researchers in six countries to improve TB control, with the goal of eliminating the disease in Australia and beyond by 2050. The respiratory disease once killed more Australians than cancer. Australia now has one of the world's lowest rates of tuberculosis. Dr Bernadette Saunders, a chief investigator at TB-CRE, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the disease remains highly prevalent throughout Asia and the Pacific. "TB is a major problem throughout the Asia-Pacific region - in China, in Vietnam where we've been working for some time now, in Papua New Guinea, in Indonesia," she said.

 

In Papua New Guinea, more than 14,500 new cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed every year, and in most cases no treatment is available. Some of the worst cases are treated in Australia. Dr Saunders says health authorities "need to work together as a region" to ensure people have access to medication and continuous treatment. "It's interruptions in medication and not being able to take the drugs continuously for the six months course that can lead to the development of drug resistance," she said. "And drug resistance TB is much harder to treat." She says treatment of multidrug-resistant TB usually takes about two years of medication to treat, and the side effects can be "quite significant." "So we really make sure that people can get medication, and that they take their medication for the entire six months when they have primarily tuberculosis so they don't develop drug resistance. "Certainly we hope that this initiative will provide expertise in the development of new medications, new therapies, new policy to implement to try and reduce tuberculosis among our Asia-Pacific neighbours." Tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs, is transmitted via the air and caused by strains of mycobacteria.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 03/22/2013

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CHINA: New National Legislature Sees More Diversity

 

More migrant workers and women, as well as younger people, have been elected to the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislature, while fewer government and Party officials have won places. The 11th NPC Standing Committee on Wednesday confirmed the credentials of all 2,987 elected deputies. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and the other six members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee - Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli - were elected as new NPC deputies. The number of farmers-turned migrant workers elected to the 12th NPC has notably increased, according to the NPC Standing Committee. A total of 401 workers and farmers have been elected deputies. They comprise 13.42 percent of the total, up 5.18 percentage points from the 11th NPC, the Standing Committee announced. The younger generation has also entered the national legislature, with two deputies born after 1990 and 74 born after 1980. Chen Ruolin, the youngest deputy, was born in December 1992. She won a gold medal in the women's synchronized 10-meter platform diving competition at the London Olympic Games in 2012. Tie Feiyan, also born in 1992, is a road toll collector in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Chinese netizens hailed her as "the most beautiful girl born after 1990," as she once rescued people from drowning and has adopted an abandoned infant. The number of female deputies has risen to 699, accounting for 23.4 percent of the total. The proportion rose 2.07 percentage points from a year earlier.

 

Moreover, 1,042, or 34.88 percent of the 12th NPC deputies, are government officials and leading Party cadres, down 6.93 percentage points from the 11th NPC. Such a decrease will help to "improve the representation of the people, motivate political participation at grass-roots levels, nurture more practical government decisions and better reflect the people's will, wishes and interests," said Xue Qingchao, researcher with the Party History Research Center of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. All the deputies were elected from 35 election units representing 34 Chinese regions and the People's Liberation Army in December and January. The biggest difference between this election and previous elections is that deputies were elected this year using the same population ratio for both rural and urban areas, said Wang Wanbin, deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee. Each rural NPC deputy used to represent a population eight times that of an urban deputy between the 1950s and the 1990s, when the country had a dominating rural population. Thanks to fast urbanization, the representation ratio reduced to four times after the Electoral Law was revised in 1995 and remained the same under the 2010 amendment.

 

This change helps to spread the notion of upholding equality during elections, according to Han Dayuan, dean of the Law School of Renmin University of China. "It will contribute to the country's rural-urban integration, greatly encourage farmers' political participation and speed up the development of democracy. It may also help push forward reform in the household registration system," Han added. This election has also stressed equality among different ethnic groups. According to the 11th NPC Standing Committee, 409, or 13.69 percent of the newly elected deputies, are from the country's 55 ethnic minority groups, with each of these groups represented. Among the elected deputies, there are 36 from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and 12 are from the Macao SAR. All these deputies are patriotic and committed to local communities, upholding the Constitution and the Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macao and supporting the practice of "one country, two systems," according to the 11th NPC Standing Committee. Thirteen deputies have been elected to represent Taiwan in the 12th NPC. They were born on the mainland and are second-generation Taiwanese, who "support the country's reunification, push forward exchanges across the Taiwan Strait and oppose 'Taiwan independence.'" The 11th NPC Standing Committee held its last bi-monthly session from Monday to Wednesday to prepare for the upcoming first annual session of the 12th NPC, which is scheduled to start on March 5.

 

The session adopted in principle a report on the work of the NPC Standing Committee, which will be submitted to the upcoming session of the 12th NPC for deliberation, said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, who presided over the session. A draft schedule for the first annual session of the 12th NPC, as well as a draft list of names for the presidium and secretary general, were also adopted. The preparation for the annual session has been smooth and is nearly completed, Wu said. Looking back on the last five years of legislation, Wu said that the 11th NPC and its Standing Committee have exercised their powers in conformity with the law. A socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics has taken shape as scheduled, and it keeps improving, he noted. The 11th NPC and the Standing Committee have supported and supervised the central government, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate to ensure lawful administration and judicial justice, Wu said. The 11th NPC and the Standing Committee have fulfilled its missions granted by the Party and the people, Wu added.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 02/27/2013

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Plan to Grow Broadband Users

 

CHINA will boost the number of broadband family users by 30 percent, or 60 million, this year under a "Broadband China" project and also add over 100 million 3G phone users in 2013. China will raise the high-speed FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) users by 35 million in 2013 from 94 million by the end of last year. It will also boost the normal home broadband user base by 25 million to 200 million by the end of this year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday. The increase is part of the "Broadband China" project which seeks to propel China's average broadband bandwidth capacity in urban regions to 20 megabytes per second by 2015, five to 10 times faster than the current level, the ministry said. The project was unveiled in response to several consumer complaints about the low speed and high prices of previous family broadband services. In 2012, the average bandwidth cost dropped 30 percent annually, it said. China, the world's No. 1 telecommunications market, will also add 100 million new 3G phone users this year from 232.8 million 3G users by the end of last year, the ministry said. By 2015, the ministry envisages China to have 450 million 3G users. US-based Nielsen said by the end of last year the 66 percent penetration rate of smartphones in China has surpassed 53 percent of the United States and the UK's 51 percent but slightly behind South Korea's 67 percent.

From http://www.shanghaidaily.com/ 02/27/2013

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China to ‘Firmly Rein’ in Property Speculation

 

The Chinese government will "firmly rein in" speculative and investment-driven housing demand and to promptly improve the accountability system for stabilizing housing prices, according to a government work report to be delivered to China' s top legislature on Tuesday. According to the report, Wen will suggest that his succeeding government promptly improve policies for regulating the real estate market and strengthen mechanisms for sustaining its steady and sound development. The government should continue to build and manage government-subsidized housing for the people so they have housing they are satisfied with, said the report. This year, 4.7 million government-subsidized urban housing units should be basically completed, construction of another 6.3 million units should begin, and renovation of dilapidated rural houses should continue, it said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/05/2013

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China to Continue ‘Proactive Fiscal, Prudent Monetary’ Policy

   

China will continue a "proactive fiscal policy" and a "prudent monetary policy" in 2013 to expand the economy by 7.5 percent and keep the consumer price index increase at around 3.5 percent, according to a government work report to be delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the parliament's annual session Tuesday. The Chinese government has upheld its tuning of "proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy" in the government work reports since 2011, vowing to maintain continuity and stability of policies, and make them more forward-looking, targeted and flexible. "We should make our proactive fiscal policy play a bigger role in ensuring steady growth, adjusting the structure, advancing reform, and benefiting the people..., maintain a balance between boosting economic growth, keeping prices stable and guarding against financial risks," reads the report to be delivered by Premier Wen to the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), which opens in Beijing Tuesday. Proactive fiscal policy denotes a moderately expansionary policy to create demand and stimulate economy by ways mainly of expanding domestic demand. The ultimate goal of a prudent monetary policy is to maintain price stability as it usually means a relatively expansionary monetary policy while the economy turns sluggish or a relatively tight monetary policy while the economy shows overheating signs. In 2009 and 2010, China adopted a "proactive" fiscal policy and a "moderately easy" monetary policy to stimulate the economy due to the impact of the global financial crisis, which marked a shift from a "prudent" fiscal policy and a "tight" monetary policy in 2008 aimed at bringing down spiking inflation then.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/05/2013

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China Improves Legislation to Protect Human Rights: Wu

 

China has improved the procedural, criminal and administrative legal systems to better protect human rights in the past five years, said Wu Bangguo, the country's top legislator, here Friday. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) deliberated and passed Amendment VIII to the Criminal Law to remove 13 nonviolent economic crimes from the list of capital crimes, thereby making punishment better fit the crime, said Wu, when reviewing the work over the past five years. The Standing Committee enacted the Law on Administrative Enforcement and revised the Law on State Compensation by striking a proper balance between powers and rights, Wu said when delivering the work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the first session of the 12th NPC. The enactment and revision of the laws has given state administrative, judicial and procuratorial bodies the powers they require while standardizing, constraining and overseeing their exercise of power and protecting the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations at the same time, he said. The Standing Committee also revised the Criminal Procedure Law to properly balance punishing crime and protecting human rights and revised the Civil Procedure Law to better safeguard the procedural rights of parties to civil lawsuits, he said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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China Improves People's Democracy Through Legislation: Wu

 

China has improved its democratic institutions and developed people's democracy through the adoption of a number of laws in the past five years, said Wu Bangguo, the country's top legislator, here Friday. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) revised the Electoral Law to ensure that deputies to people's congresses are elected based on the same population ratio in both urban and rural areas, said Wu, when reviewing the work over the past five years. The revision of the Electoral Law ensured people's congresses have an appropriate number of deputies from every ethnic group, region and sector, in order to fully embody equality between all people, regions and ethnic groups, he said when delivering the work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the first session of the 12th NPC. The Standing Committee also revised the Organic Law of Villagers' Committees, improved procedures for electing and dismissing members of villagers' committees, and enhanced democratic procedural systems, Wu said. It also formulated guidelines on electing new people's congresses at county and township levels across the country and electing deputies to the NPC, and made a decision on legal issues concerning the election of deputies to the 12th NPC, Wu said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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China Strengthens Legal Supervision Over Food Safety: Wu

 

China has strengthened its supervision over food safety in the past five years through legislation and inspection on compliance of relevant laws, said Wu Bangguo, the country's top legislator, here Friday. To address serious problems of illegal use and misuse of food additives, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) enacted the Law on Food Safety and conducted two rounds of inspections on compliance with the law, said Wu, when reviewing the work over the past five years. The Standing Committee has also prompted the State Council, China's cabinet, and its relevant departments to improve the mechanism for coordinating food safety work and create a risk monitoring and assessment mechanism for food safety, he said when delivering the work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the First Session of the 12th NPC. To help solve problems in drinking water safety for urban and rural residents, the Standing Committee listened to and deliberated the State Council's report on the issue and called for effectively strengthening protection and management of drinking water sources, he said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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China Tackles Environment Issues Through Legislation

 

A number of environmental laws, adopted in the past five years, have helped China to follow a sustainable growth pattern, said Wu Bangguo, the country's top legislator, on Friday. In response to severe environmental challenges, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee enacted the Law on Promoting the Circular Economy and revised several important environmental laws such as the Law on Renewable Energy, the Law on Water and Soil Conservation, and the Law on Promoting Clean Production, Wu said when delivering the work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the first session of the 12th NPC. Lawmakers also deliberated reports on environmental protection, prevention and control of water pollution, as well as management of land and mineral resources, he said when reviewing the work over the past five years. They checked the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, the Law on Promoting Clean Production and the Energy Conservation Law, according to Wu. The work of national lawmakers have helped promote green, circular and low-carbon development and socialist ecological progress by legislative means, he said. Lawmakers also engaged in the work to cope with climate change. The NPC Standing Committee adopted a resolution, which further defined China's guidelines, basic principles and required measures of actively addressing climate change. The resolution not only stressed the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" but also pledged to actively cope with global climate change with the international community, Wu said.  

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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Nation Set to Expand Smart Cities Project

 

China may add another 50 pilot cities to the nation's smart cities project over the next three months, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of Housing and Urban-Rual Development. In January, the ministry announced the first batch of 90 pilot cities for the project. Most of them were second- and third-tier cities. The project is aimed at advancing the nation's urbanization and industries such as telecommunications and infrastructure. It will drive about 2 trillion yuan ($322 billion) in investment by 2015, according to research from the State Information Center.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/19/2013  

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JAPAN: Govt to Bolster Ban on Corporal Punishment

 

The Education Rebuilding Council, a government advisory panel chaired by Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata, has recommended enhancing the education for school club activity instructors to end corporal punishment. In its first proposal, submitted Tuesday to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the panel clearly states that the government should aim to eradicate corporal punishment especially in clubs. The proposal also recommends the government compile guidelines to help instructors better motivate students. It also calls for the instructors to study mental training to help students to reach their potential in games.

From http://newsonjapan.com 02/27/2013

 

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Consumer Law Reforms Eyed

 

An advisory panel to the Justice Minister has compiled a report on revising the Civil Code, presenting about 300 possible revisions, some of which are meant to protect consumers. For example, it has been learned that the panel proposes new rules on "contracts of adhesion," a term for unfair contracts agreed between two parties that have heavily unequal bargaining power, such as a large corporation and an ordinary person. It would be the first thorough revision of the law's provisions on such matters since the law's enactment in 1896. The council will later compile an outline for the law's revision in about a year, after hearing opinions from the public. The ministry intends to submit the bill to revise the law to the ordinary session of the Diet in 2015. Under the proposed rules, "adhesive" terms and conditions that inflict unexpected and excessive disadvantages on consumers will be nullified. In many cases, consumers have signed contracts with little understanding of the fine print in which companies unilaterally stipulate detailed terms to their own advantage. Such consumers have wound up in trouble when they tried to cancel contracts for services such as cellular phones or insurance. They are often subjected to demands for payment of unexpected penalties.

 

In light of that, the panel proposed a revision of the law to nullify such unreasonable provisions. The subcommittee of the Legislative Council also proposed a stipulation to bar any individual, other than the manager of a corporate borrower, from becoming a debt guarantor as part of a joint obligation when a small or medium-sized company borrows money from a financial institution. The move was a response to an increasing number of reported incidents in which a corporate borrower failed to repay debt, causing the company to go broke and leaving a third-party debt guarantor to face demands to repay the debt unconditionally along with the original debtor. Some such individuals, unable to pay, have been driven to personal bankruptcy or even suicide even though they may not have been involved in the management of the company. The panel also proposed changing the statutory rate of interest from the current fixed rate of 5 percent a year to a floating rate, when there is no agreement between lender and borrower, and to lower the initial interest rate to about 3 percent a year. Other proposed reforms include introducing an all-encompassing five-year extinctive prescription--a concept analogous to the statue of limitations in criminal law--for all contracts, instead of the current short-term extinctive prescriptions set depending on the content of contracts, such as one year for bill-and-hold deals at eateries, two years for payment to retailers and three years for payment to doctors for medical services.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 02/28/2013

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Ways to Replace Bankruptcy Protection Law Eyed

 

To prevent a sudden increase in bankruptcies from April, the government has decided to continue to monitor whether financial institutions refuse requests to change loan conditions for small and medium companies, sources said. The Law Concerning Temporary Measures to Facilitate Financing for Small and Medium Enterprises, which requires financial institutions to respond to requests for suspension or reduction of interest payments insofar as possible, expires at the end of this month. For this reason, the government had considered new measures to replace the law. A committee for relevant ministries to examine the cash management of companies by industry will be established within the month. In the committee, to be led by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko, senior vice ministers from eight organizations will monitor whether financial institutions refuse to change loan conditions without a reasonable excuse. The eight organizations are the Cabinet Office; the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry; the Finance Ministry; the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry; the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry; the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; and the Reconstruction Agency. The Financial Services Agency has already asked financial institutions to continue to respond to requests for a change in loan conditions from borrowers. It will also ask them to regularly report on their situations.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 03/16/2013

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Abe Vows to Change Constitution, Reestablish 'Proud Japan'

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Sunday to push for changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution—a move likely to stir unease in both the countries, which were among victims of Tokyo’s 20th century militarism. Abe was speaking at the annual convention of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which adopted a wide-ranging action plan, including efforts to create an “independent constitution” to replace the U.S.-imposed postwar charter which bans the use of force in settling international disputes. The ban limits the so-called Self-Defense Forces to a strictly defensive role and bars them from taking aggressive action. The hawkish Abe has said Japan must redefine its rules of engagement to provide an effective deterrent against North Korea and balance China’s growing military might. Abe said in January he intends to change the constitution, by modifying an article which stipulates that amendments need a two-thirds majority in parliament.

 

The LDP and its junior coalition partner New Komeito have a more-than two-thirds majority in the lower house, but New Komeito and some LDP factions are cautious about amendments. The less powerful upper house is controlled by no single party, but the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has the greatest number of seats. Elections for half the upper house seats must be held around July. “We will definitely win through the (upper house) election and reestablish a proud Japan,” Abe told the convention. The party action plan also reaffirmed Japan’s intention to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, despite persistent objections from farmers and others. It said Japan will negotiate “in a manner which will protect national interests including the agriculture and fishery sector.” “I will definitely protect Japan’s agriculture and food. I want you to trust me,” Abe said.

From www.japantoday.com 03/18/2013

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Kuroda Emphasizes BOJ's Change in Policy

 

New Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda emphasized that the bank has changed its monetary policy at a press conference to officially announce his appointment. At the press conference Thursday, Kuroda indicated his intention to implement additional monetary-easing measures, giving the impression that the central bank has put an end to its stance under former Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa. Kuroda's remarks gave an idea of the future measures to be taken by the bank to achieve its 2 percent inflation target. "While interest rates have remained near zero, our role to work to fulfill the expectation [of market players that prices will rise] is crucial," Kuroda said. Regarding the mechanism by which the monetary easing measures aim to revitalize the economy, Kuroda said: "For small and midsize companies, interest rates on bank loans will fall, and for major companies, fund procurement from financial markets will become easier. Economic activities will be stimulated as a consequence." But he also expressed his view that even if drastic monetary easing is implemented, it is essential that people understand that price levels will rise in the future as the bank tries to achieve the 2 percent inflation target.

 

Kuroda expects households will spend more, which will make companies increase their capital investment in a kind of chain reaction. Deputy Gov. Kikuo Iwata also said, "Unless we commit to achieving the target in a responsible manner within about two years, market players will lose trust in our monetary policy." Kuroda said, "We intend to manage policies in such a way that the direction of our monetary policy will be clearly discernable, which in turn will strengthen communication with markets." Under the current monetary-easing policy, the central bank has a special fund for purchasing government bonds and other financial products. It also has a loan scheme to encourage private financial institutions to extend more loans. In addition, there is an internal rule called the bank notes rule, under which the outstanding government bonds held by the bank should not exceed its outstanding issuance of bank notes.

 

Some market players found it difficult to understand how seriously the Bank of Japan intends to implement monetary-easing measures due to the complicated natures of the schemes. "In many countries, central banks are responsible for stabilizing price levels," Kuroda said. Deputy Gov. Hiroshi Nakaso, who was promoted from within the central bank, also added that the bank's monetary policy in the past "had become difficult to understand," due to the internal schemes. Under Kuroda, the bank will likely review its comprehensive monetary easing measures, including the bank notes rule, which were adopted under Shirakawa. The decision to implement the comprehensive easing measures was made in October 2010 because of the rapid rise of the yen's value in the wake of European financial crisis, and as a result of deflation, which was becoming increasingly serious. The three pillars of the policy were-- To effectively revive a zero-interest policy for the first time in four years and three months;To promote monetary-easing measures until a 1 percent year-on-year increase in the consumer price index could be expected;To establish a new fund for purchasing long-term government bonds, corporate bonds and other financial assets.

 

The central bank will likely purchase government bonds with longer maturity periods than at present, and actively buy financial products with price fluctuation risks, such as real estate investment funds (J-REIT). At Thursday's press conference, Kuroda said: "It's natural for a central bank to voluntarily purchase government bonds as part of its monetary policy. There is no possibility it will finance government deficits." As the central bank is going to shift to a policy of drastic monetary-easing, many market players may fear that the bank's government bond purchases are covering the government's fiscal deficit. Kuroda said, "We have taken action while considering what kinds of bond and asset purchases are proper." Kuroda emphasized that as long as the central bank purchases such assets based on its own judgment, it does not constitute covering the government's fiscal deficit.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/ 03/23/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Park's Office Implores Lawmakers to Pass Gov't Reorganization Bill

The office of President Park Geun-hye urged Friday the National Assembly to approve her government reorganization bill by next Tuesday, as the parliamentary impasse over the bill is feared to take a toll on national security and other state affairs. "The presidential office earnestly asks the National Assembly to pass the government reorganization bill by March 5, or before ending its extraordinary session," Park's spokeswoman Kim Haing told reporters.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 03/01/2013

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Korea's Biggest Urban Development Project Goes Bust

Korea's biggest urban development project worth W30 trillion has collapsed because the developer has defaulted on its debt (US$1=W1,098). W4 trillion in investments is lost, and residents in the affected areas of Yongsan in central Seoul are gearing up to take legal action. Dream Hub, the developer set up for the project, defaulted on Wednesday on W5.2 billion in interest on asset-backed commercial papers. Dream Hub had issued W2.4 trillion worth of ABCPs and asset-backed securities. State-run rail operator KORAIL is legally bound to repay the entire debt within 185 days, in which case Dream Hub can avoid bankruptcy. However, KORAIL would end up gaining the rights to the property and the project led by Dream Hub will be scrapped. Around 2,300 households in the affected areas in Yongsan, who were barred from selling their homes in the last six years while the project was being pursued, are expected to suffer huge losses. Many of them took out an average of W300 million in loans expecting to sell their property at high prices once the project got underway. But plummeting prices due to the project's collapse will make it difficult for them to repay their debts. The residents are considering lawsuits against KORAIL and the Seoul Metropolitan Government for the project's failure. Dream Hub may seek court receivership and take steps to resume the project, or KORAIL may take back the land and come up with a new plan. Another option is for the government to intervene and propose another solution.

From http://english.chosun.com 03/14/2013

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Political Parties Push Stronger Anti-smoking Measures

 

Following their announcement to raise cigarette prices by two-thousand won, ruling and opposition parties are now pushing to introduce graphic images on cigarette packs.  Lawmakers are expected to introduce such measures under a bill to be proposed within this week. The envisioned regulation also aims to require tobacco companies to cover more than 50 percent of a cigarette pack with a photo warning against the harms of smoking.  Tobacco companies will also be banned from using potentially confusing words such as “mild” and “light” in their product names. Under the strengthened regulations, the medical treatment costs for people trying to quit smoking will be covered by health insurance as done in the U.S. and Japan. Tougher anti-smoking measures were nipped in the bud several times because of the tobacco industry’s strong resistance and concerns about a greater financial burden on ordinary people. But many are saying that this year is the best time to introduce stronger anti-smoking measures, since it marks the first year of the new government with no major elections scheduled.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr 03/18/2013

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MONGOLIA: Kh.Temuujin Introduces the Innovation Policy in Legal Department

 

In accordance with the tradition of the Ministers of the Government of Innovation and Reform to hold an open conference regarding issues of their relevant departments, Justice Minister Kh.Temuujin gave expanded information on the innovations in the legal department and answered questions from journalists.  Last year, laws on improving the legal environment of the courts, judges, and lawyers were adopted. But now an arrangement is needed to develop the relations, rights, and obligations of law enforcement officials, according to Kh.Temuujin during the event. Law and justice is the one of three departments where the benefits of innovation can only be seen after a long time. The Justice Minister also said that the conditions required to conduct the right operations will be created once 36 laws in this department are amended. He deems that a citizen-friendly legal system will be established once current laws are evaluated and updated. He also added that the enforcement of these laws will protect citizens instead of scare them. Today, over 420 laws are in force in Mongolia and 196 of them are provisions that indicate the penalties for violations

From http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/ 03/13/2013

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CAMBODIA: Launching Green Growth Plan 2013-2030

 

Cambodia on Friday adopted the national policy and strategic plan for green growth 2013-2030, aiming at developing the economy with consideration for environmental and natural resources sustainability. The plan was approved during the weekly cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen. "The national policy, compiled by the ministry of environment, aims to balance between economic development and environment, society, culture and sustainable consumption of natural resources in order to enhance people's well-being and living conditions," said a media statement after the meeting. "The strategic plan for green growth 2013-2030 is to promote Cambodian economy towards the green economy, focusing on effective use of natural resources, environmental sustainability, green jobs, green technologies, green finance, green credit, and green investment," the statement said. It said the country has already adopted several legal instruments for the green growth implementation. Those included the roadmap for green growth, the memorandum of understanding on green growth cooperation between Cambodia and South Korea's Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the National Council of Green Growth, and Cambodia's membership into an agreement on the establishment of the GGGI. The GGGI was officially launched in March 2010 by former President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak. Its core activity is advising member countries on forming a Green Growth Plan (GGP).

From http://news.xinhuanet.com 03/01/2013

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Cambodian PM Orders "Strict Measures" to Curb Bird Flu Outbreaks

 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday ordered all relevant ministries and institutions to take "strict measures" to prevent and eliminate the spread of Avian Influenza H5N1 virus, which has killed 8 people so far this year. In a circular signed on Friday, Hun Sen said during the first two months of 2013, the H5N1 virus has broken out and infected to nine people -- eight of them died. "Even though there are preventive measures by relevant institutions, the spread and death toll from the virus are still alarmingly concerned," he said. To ensure the safety for people more effectively, the premier ordered the ministry of agriculture to continue strengthening necessary and urgent measures to prevent and eliminate the spread of H5N1 virus. "The ministry must thoroughly and constantly inspect poultry' s health throughout the country, and carry out bio-safety and sanitary measures at all poultry farms, slaughter-houses and markets," he said in the circular. "The ministry must promote broader awareness of bird flu virus to the public." He also instructed the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of health to continue strengthening cooperation in information exchange to take measures timely to prevent and eliminate the virus.

 

In addition, he ordered the ministry of interior to take a firm and urgent measure to prevent the illegal trafficking of poultry and poultry-made products in all images and at anywhere. Cambodia sees the worst outbreak of the virus this year since the disease was first identified in 2004. To date, the country has recorded 30 human cases of the virus, killing 27 people. The latest death was a 35-year-old man from eastern Kampong Cham province, who died on Monday. On Tuesday, Health Minister Mam Bunheng appealed to people to be more careful about the outbreaks of bird flu virus, urging people not to eat ill or dead poultry. "Poultry must be cooked well. Properly cooked poultry meat is therefore safe to consume," he told reporters. Sonny Krishnan, communications officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia, said that home slaughtering and preparation of sick or dead poultry for food is hazardous. He said parents and guardians should keep their children away from poultry -- do not allow them to touch feathers and do not keep poultry in their house. "Parents and guardians must also make sure children wash their hands with soap and water after any contact with poultry," he said. "If they have fast or difficult breathing, they should seek medical attention at the nearest health facility."

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/01/2013

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PHILIPPINES: City Improves Land Use Plan with GIS

 

The city government of Butuan is working together with Caraga State University to update the city’s current Comprehensive Land Use Plan by using GIS. Butuan is a highly urbanised city located at the north-eastern part of Agusan Valley in Mindanao island. It is subdivided into 86 districts and has a population of 309,709 as per the 2010 Census. According to Vice Mayor Lawrence Fortun, the partnership is vital for the city’s path towards sustainable development as it would help local authorities better improve its urban planning decisions. In addition, it would also help the city government arrive at more accurate projections when quantifying damages and loss during natural calamities, allowing the city government to achieve an effective priority-setting of resources in mitigating risks during such situations. Furthermore, once the new land use plan is made available, it will help in the preparation of the city’s disaster risk reduction plan and climate change adaptation programme.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/01/2013

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The Philippines Signs ICT Agreement with Spain

 

The ICT-Office of the Department of Science and Technology signed a memorandum of agreement with the government of Spain to work closely in advancing ICT development in the Philippines by sharing industry best practices and lessons learned. According to an official statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines is expected to benefit from the agreement through the sharing and exchanging of best practices on ICT policy regulations, promotion of research and development in the area of ICT, bridging the digital divide, security aspects on fighting cybercrime, deployment of digital television and its regulatory issues and skills enhancement of human resources in this field. In addition, the agreement also encourages the exchange of experiences between businesses, educational institutions, government policy and regulatory agencies and other organisations on ICT. “This MOU signing between Spain and the Philippines for improved cooperation in ICT is a significant landmark in the relationship of our two countries,” said Louis Casambre,Executive Director of the ICT-Office. Meanwhile, Jorge Domeq, Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines, said that other than providing humanitarian relief in time of natural disasters, Spain is keen in providing assistance in disaster prevention utilizing ICT. Other key areas that will be improved by the agreement are: e-health and e-education, technical standards and certifications, e-government, green ICT, and government-private sector collaboration.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/22/2013

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SINGAPORE: MPs Welcome Govt's Schemes to Help Low Income, Elderly S'poreans

 

SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament told MediaCorp they welcomed the government's schemes to help low income as well as elderly Singaporeans. Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC, Tin Pei Ling suggested the schemes to be made more accessible for the elderly. Ms Tin said: "Some of the measures that were announced, for example, some of the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and the top-ups that the elderly can look forward to receiving will to a certain degree benefit them. I hope the government will continue to review these measures and see how it can be more easily accessible for our elderly. "Some of the things I think the elderly will be looking out for or would potentially benefit is understanding what these schemes are about, how to go about getting them and therefore truly benefiting from these schemes that are put aside for them." MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Yeo Guat Kwang believes employers should share the gains if there is productivity growth with their employees. "All the while we have been advocating if there is any productivity growth, I think the company should share the gains with all the employees. But as you can see in the past, the progress has been very slow. We are glad that this time round, government is taking such decisive moves to encourage the employers to do so," said Mr Yeo. Mr Yeo added: "I think with the Wage Credit, I would say that employers at this point would have no excuse not to adjust the salary for all the workers who have put in so much effort to up their productivity. I hope to see all the employers respond positively."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 02/25/2013

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News Analysis: Singapore Tightens Foreign Worker Policies, Aiming to Drive Productivity

 

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered his budget speech in the parliament on Monday, saying that the government, in a bid to pursue quality growth, will further tighten foreign worker policies while supporting the drive to boost productivity. The budget proposals also included measures to help mitigate the impact of rising living cost on the low-incomers and those aimed at helping the families with childcare and other services they need. Observers said this is a balanced budget with measures to cut the costs for local residents while supporting the drive to restructure the economy by reducing the reliance on foreign labor, giving support to upgrading efforts by businesses and subsidizing training for local workforce.

 

TIGHTENING OF FOREIGN WORKER POLICIES

Tharman said that the tightening of foreign worker policies will be most significant in sectors where productivity growth is weak and the growth of the foreign workforce is significant. The foreign worker quota for the services sector will be cut from 45 percent to 40 percent from July this year, he said. This will affect businesses such as restaurants, retail shops and marine engineering firms. Restaurants and retail shops will also have their S pass quotas cut from 20 percent to 15 percent. Singapore has in place a system where the permits for foreign workforce were classified into several categories, largely in accordance with their salaries. S pass holders are mostly junior executives earning more than 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,620 U.S. dollars) each month. For the marine sector, the number of foreign workers a firm can hire for each local worker will be cut from 5 to 4.5 in January 2016. It will fall further to 3.5 foreigners per local worker in 2018.

 

There is no change in the foreign workers quotas in the manufacturing, construction and process sectors.The Manpower Ministry will also raise the levies for foreign workers in certain sectors and the qualifying monthly salary for S Passes from 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,620 U.S. dollars) to 2,200 Singapore dollars (1,782 U.S. dollars). There will also be a new tiered system which will mean that older and more experienced S-pass applicants will need to qualify at higher salaries. This will help level the playing field for local workers, Tharman said. The Manpower Ministry will also continue to tighten eligibility requirements for the employment pass workers for professionals, especially the Q1 pass, the lowest category on the hierarchy. In the longer term, it will put in place a framework to ensure that firms give fair consideration to Singaporeans in their hiring practices.

 

RESTRUCTURING BEGAN IN 2010

The tightening of the foreign worker policies did not come as a surprise for many. It is part of the government's Quality Growth program aimed at helping businesses to upgrade, create better jobs and raise wages. The government is also giving more support to enterprises in their efforts to upgrade operations and improve productivity, and investing in the local workforce by "heavily subsidizing their training in every skill," Tharman said. "We are restructuring our economy. We began this in earnest in 2010," he said. The finance minister said that the productivity growth in Singapore has been relatively weak over the past decade. "With the exception of the previous decade, our productivity growth rates were well above the norm even as our labor force grew significantly," he said.

 

Singapore's productivity was about a third of the most advanced economies in 1980, and it rose to about 70 percent of the most advanced economies like the United States three decades later. Singapore did it by bringing leading global companies, upgrading local enterprises and building a strong education system and improving the skills of its workers, he said. However, Singapore must go through a new phase of transformation. It needs to "catch up from a decade of slow productivity growth," he said. "The 2 percent to 3 percent per annum target for productivity growth that we had set after the weak decade until 2009, is ambitious but we must make every effort to achieve it," he said. " That will bring us, at the end of this decade, much closer to where the most advanced economies are today."

 

BUSINESSES VOICE CONCERNS OVER PACE OF CHANGES

The local and international businesses have been crying over the pace of tightening of the foreign worker policies as attempts to renew the work passes for some of their employees may sometimes end in failure or a downgrade of the passes. Singapore government started tightening its foreign worker policies since before the general election in May 2011. It has been urging the businesses to upgrade and reduce their reliance on cheap foreign labor and raise the productivity instead. "Restructuring will unfortunately lead to some businesses being winnowed out, but the end result must be a vibrant and sustainable local small and medium enterprises sector. Every support must be provided to help the businesses which bring in more efficient techniques and service models, so they can grow in a tight labor market, and where possible make their mark internationally," Tharman said.

 

As part of a three-year Transition Support Package to help companies with their restructuring efforts, the government will co- fund 40 percent of wage increases for Singaporean employees earning up to 4,000 Singapore dollars (3,240 U.S. dollars) in gross monthly wage. The scheme will cost the government about 3.6 billion Singapore dollars (2.9 billion U.S. dollars) over the next three years. The scheme will serve as an incentive for companies to share their productivity gains with workers, said Tharman. To help individual firms raise productivity, the government is making it easier and faster for businesses to make claims for a Productivity and Innovation Credit. A land productivity grant will also be introduced to help companies intensify the use of land in Singapore. Training for Singaporean workers will be boosted at all levels of the workforce.

 

BALANCED BUDGET, CHALLENGES FOR MANUFACTURERS

The finance minister also unveiled a series of measures worth a total of 1.7 billion Singapore dollars (1.4 billion U.S. dollars) to relieve the impact of rising living cost on the low-income residents. All taxpayers will receive a personal income tax rebate. Those below 60 years old will receive a rebate of 30 percent, capped at 1,500 Singapore dollars. Those above 60 will get a higher rebate of 50 percent, subject to the same cap. The range of direct handouts includes goods and services tax voucher, top-ups to personal accounts to cover medical costs and rebates on service and conservancy charges. Some 1.4 million Singaporeans from lower- and middle-income households will receive double the amount of assistance this year. The government will also spend 3 billion Singapore dollars (2.4 billion U.S. dollars) on the pre-school sector over the next five years to help train more teachers and give support to the operators. It will also be raising the taxes for high-end residential properties while lowering the tax rates for others.

 

Chiu Wu Hong, tax partner at KPMG, said the budget is balanced. "It reinforces the message that the country has to push ahead with economic restructuring and with the initiatives to address higher healthcare costs and cost of living," he said. "This is a budget that is transitional rather than transformational. In this slower growth environment, the government has moved to address the issues arising from an economy that is restructuring," said Victor Tay, chief executive officer of Singapore Business Federation. The Singapore Manufacturing Federation said it welcomes the budget which highlights the need for Singapore businesses to be innovative and productive. "We acknowledge the assistance that will be provided by the government through the various incentives. However, manufacturers will still face challenges in attracting and retaining workers in this sector. In addition, the pace of transformation will also be a major challenge and concern to manufacturers," it said. Tharman said the government expects a surplus of 3.9 billion Singapore dollars (3.2 billion U.S. dollars) for the fiscal year 2012, or 1.1 percent of the gross domestic product. (1 Singapore dollar = 0.81 U.S. dollar)

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 02/26/2013

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Singapore Plans to Double Speed of Free Wifi

 

The Singapore Government is planning to improve the wireless infrastructure of the country by expanding and enhancing Singapore’s free wireless broadband programme, Wireless@SG.  Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said that given the popularity of Wireless@SG and its importance for individuals and businesses to enable services such as cashless payments, the six year old system needs to be updated. He stated that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will expand the capacity and speed of Wireless@SG, doubling the speed from 1 MBPS to 2 MBPS. Another update announced was the simplification of the login process for Wireless@SG. Currently, users must register and use a unique ID and password to login every time they wish to use Wireless@SG. The improved Wireless@SG, however, will be able to recognise registered users through their unique SIM cards in smartphones and log in automatically. Ibrahim stated that this will allow users to switch seamlessly from 3G or 4G to Wireless@SG.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/12/2013

 

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Various Programmes to Help New Immigrants Integrate Well in S'pore

 

SINGAPORE: New immigrants have generally been able to integrate well with others from their own religious groups. Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said there are programmes aimed at helping them integrate with people from other religions as well. He said: "We also have various platforms to ensure that new citizens understand the importance of racial and religious harmony in Singapore. For example, through the milestone programmes that new citizens go through - that helps them to appreciate our culture and heritage and respect for those of different faiths. "The Inter-racial and Religious Confidence Circles, or the IRCCs, also seek to build local networks of trust for our religious and community leaders. "These networks help to promote engagement across different religious groups at the local level. They create opportunities for our people, including new immigrants, to interact, foster ties and widen the common ground we all share together."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/13/2013

 

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THAILAND: New Measures Needed to Curb Energy Imports

 

Thailand needs to devise new measures to curb energy consumption, as rising fuel import to satisfy domestic consumption is widening the country's trade deficit. Imports in the first month of this year rose sharply in both value and volume, in line with economic growth, which was propelled by the government's stimulus measures including the first-car buyer scheme.  According to a University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce survey on 800 businesses, 45 per cent said electricity was essential for their operations; 20 per cent considered diesel as most important; 15.7 per cent need NGV; 8 per cent LPG; 7 per cent petrol; and 3.5 per cent others. To Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the university's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, the survey revealed an alarming fact. Most of the businessmen still consider fossil fuel as the most important source of energy, thanks to the government's subsidies.

 

Hence, he said, the government should start promoting the use of alternative, clean energy in order to promote the sustainable development of the country. The survey also found most respondents (35 per cent) want the government to promote the use of alternative energy and biogas, followed by 26 per cent saying the government should focus on energy-saving. The private sector has also shown concern over the shortage of electricity supply in the coming months. Almost 40 per cent said they had yet to see a clear solution for the expected shortage of energy supplies in April. They urged the government to closely monitor the import of fuel in upcoming months, especially since the import of energy rose significantly in January.

 

GOVT NEEDS PROPER PLAN

A source from the industrial sector said Thailand was entering a dangerous period by relying too much on energy imports and advised the government to come up with a proper plan to promote alternative sources and urge people to cut down their usage. "The first-car scheme has stimulated the import of fuel this year. Thailand will continue to face a huge trade deficit as demand for energy continues to rise. The government's policies do not encourage people to save energy. In fact, the government needs to closely monitor its trade balance, otherwise there will be a higher trade deficit," the source said. Thailand has been a net energy importer and the Asia-Pacific Energy Research Centre has forecast the demand of energy to rise three-fold by 2035, based on a business-|as-usual approach. If seen on a sector-by-sector basis, the industrial and transport sectors consume 70 per cent of total energy, while the rest comes from residential and commercial sector.

 

According to the Foreign Trade Department, Thailand recorded a trade deficit of US$5.48 billion (Bt163 billion) in January. In the month, |fuel imports, including crude oil, processed oil and natural gas, rose by 45 per cent year |on year, or 3.8 billion litres in volume. The import value also rose by 42 per cent to $2.74 billion. In the same month last year, fuel imports also increased by 9 per cent from the same period a year earlier to 2.6 billion litres or 16.4 million barrels in volume. The import value was up by 11 per cent to $1.9 bn. Throughout last year, total fuel import volume hit nearly 49 billion litres or 308 million barrels last year, up by 5.7 per cent from 2011. In terms of value, that increased by 9 per cent on year to $35.9 billion.

From http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ 03/04/2013

 

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Thailand Updates OTPC Tablet Project in 2013

 

Following the Thai government’s second year of the One Tablet Per Child (OTPC) policy to give new lot of 1.7 million tablets to students in 2013, ICT Ministry has recently updated the process and revealed different specification of the tablet models for the coming e-auction. Off 1.7 million units, the first grade students would receive 850,000 units while the remaining would go to the hands of seventh grade students countrywide. Another 54,000 units of higher specification would also be purchased and provided to teachers, said Group Captain Surapol Navamavadhana, Advisor to the ICT Minister Thailand, and a committee member and Assistant Secretary to the OTPC Policy Commission. The average price per unit for the tablets of the first graders is THB 2720 (US$ 91.70), while THB 2,920 (US$ 98.44) is the price for the tablets for teachers and the seventh graders, he added. “Tablets for teachers will come with HDMI slot, stylus pencil, and up to 8-GB SD card slot,” he said.

 

According to Navamavadhana, this year the purchase will be via e-auction with specification being re-announced. “This is different from the last year’s purchase that the MICTidentified the specification before giving to the winning factory to produce and supply the entire lot directly.” The e-auction is expected to be proceed on April 29, and the contract will be signed by May 10. The delivery of the tablets will be within 90 days of the signing date of the contract. Currently, there are nine companies show interest in participating the e-auction. There are TCL, Haier, Huawei, Scope, to name with few. Navamavadhana said that the OTPC committee had learnt from experience last year to avoid the same mistakes and improve the quality of sourcing system. “All bidders will be able to read the auction condition in Thai and English language since the beginning,” he said and added that two of the key requirements are to have service centres and one year warranty to cover all units. “The winners will have to re-package their devices to be as per the design of the OTPC project, and provide manual guide in Thai,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the survey on the user satisfaction of the OTPC project showed that the first grade students—who were given free tablets for education in 2012— in the North were 100% satisfied, while students from the North East showed 90% satisfaction on the device. There is an improvement on the specification requirements for the tablets this year compared to last year, according to him. The new specifications of the two models are: Tablets for the first grade students feature seven inches widescreen, 8GB flash memory, 1GB ram, and 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. Tablets for the seventh grade students and teachers feature eight inches widescreen, 16GB flash memory, 1GB ram, and 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. Both will come with either Android OS or Window OS.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/13/2013

 

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VIETNAM: To Limit Use of Cash for Large Transactions

 

The State Bank of Vietnam is going to submit a decree to the government for approval, under which it will limit the use of cash for large transactions, said director of the SBV's Payment Department Bui Quang Tien on Friday. SBV's move aims to weaken the black market economy by making commercial transactions more transparency, said the bank official, adding that restricted cash payment would help the country fight tax evasion, counterfeit money production and money laundering. For the first time, individuals will not be allowed to pay for securities, houses, land and large vehicles with cash. Organizations will not be allowed to use cash for transactions in real estate, securities, aircraft, ships and cars, or transactions exceeding the limit set by the central bank. SBV is implementing a project on non-cash payment, which aims to have 150,000 Point of Sales (POS) nationwide by 2015, over the current 94,000 POS. As the end of September 2012, Vietnam had nearly 51 million banks cards, including debit cards, credit cards and prepaid cards. However, after nearly 20 years bank cards available, millions of Vietnam's ATM cards are still used to withdraw cash at ATMs instead of performing non-cash transactions, according to the Vietnam Card Association.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/01/2013

 

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BANGLADESH: Draft of Nat`L ICT Policy to Be Placed Before Cabinet Monday

 

The draft of the National Policy on Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-2013 will be placed before the cabinet on Monday for its approval. Nazrul Islam Khan, secretary of the ministry of information and communication technology, said, the draft will be placed at a regular weekly meeting of the cabinet division which is expected to approve it unanimously.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 03/03/2013

 

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Cabinet Approves Draft of ‘Hajj Package 2013’

 

The Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the ‘Hajj Package 2013’ with two expenditure packages under government management taking into consideration the financial ability of pilgrims. The total number of pilgrims this year will be 1,27,198, including 10,000 under government management. The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the Cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the new hajj package fixed the maximum cost of Tk 3,47,027 for each pilgrim under package-1 while Tk 2,78,742 for each pilgrim under package-2. In addition to the above expenditure, each pilgrim should have to carry minimum cash worth around 450 Saudi Real for animal sacrifice (Korbani), he added.

 

Musharraf said the pilgrims under package-1 will have to pay Tk 1,50,591 for housing and other necessary expenditures while pilgrims under package-2 will need Tk 83,790 for the same purpose. The Cabinet Secretary said the cost for each hajj pilgrim under private management should not be less than the government packages. The day’s meeting also approved the draft of the ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University, Bangladesh Bill, 2013’. Musharraf said the Cabinet also approved a proposal for amending the ‘Rules for the Administration of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, 1900’ for handing over the authority of Controlling Zoom Cultivation and Collection of Zoom Tax to Zila Parishad Chairmen from Deputy Commissioners. The draft of the ‘National Information and Communication Technology Policy, 2013’ was also placed before the day’s meeting, but the Cabinet directed the authorities concerned to resubmit the policy after necessary changes.

 

Besides, three separate reports –- on the Home Minister’s visit to India, Malaysia and Italy -- were also placed before the Cabinet. At the very beginning of the day’s meeting, the Cabinet adopted a condolence motion on the death of veteran politician and former Minister, and General Secretary of Awami League leader M Abdul Jalil. The condolence resolution mentioned various aspects of the colourful political career of late Abdul Jalil as well as his contribution to country’s politics. “The country has lost a pro-people political personality at his death,” the condolence motion said. Cabinet Members, advisers to the Prime Minister and State Minister concerned attended the meeting. The Cabinet secretary and secretaries concerned were also present.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 03/12/2013

 

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INDIA: Launching National Cloud Initiative

 

New Delhi: The Government of India has launched a national cloud initiative —GI Cloud—to help the government leverage cloud computing for effective delivery of e-services. The project by the Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) has beeninitiated to support the implementation of the National e-Governance Plan of India (NeGP) and aims to create a private cloud environment for the use of government departments and agencies at the centre and state levels. According to DeitY, the adoption of cloud computing will accelerate the delivery of e-services to citizens, and support other objectives such as increasing standardisation, interoperability and integration, pooling of scarce and underused resources, and the spread of best practices. Cloud computing provides tremendous scope of speeding up the development and roll out of e-governance applications while increasing government ICT efficiency.

 

A roadmap to GI Cloud was released by DeitY last week, assessing the ICT infrastructure currently in place in India and defining an implementation plan for GI Cloud. The roadmap declares that cloud computing environments will be established at the national and state levels, starting with one National Cloud, using new and existing data centres. The National Cloud will provide services such as computing, storage and network infrastructure, backup and recovery, and application development, supported by the State Clouds. A GI Cloud Services Directory will be created to help public sector organisations find and subscribe to relevant services. The government’s AppStore will host both cloud and non-cloud enabled applications which can easily be customised to meet the needs of different organisations. The first step defined for the implementation of GI Cloud is the establishment of an ‘Empowered Committee’ to provide strategic and regulatory guidance to DeitY and other stakeholders. DeitY will publish guidelines and standards for the security, application development, service delivery, contract management, and pricing and procurement for GI Cloud. The roadmap specifies that detailed studies of the existing infrastructure capacity at the government data centres and the requirement for infrastructure and applications need to be conducted for effective implementation of GI Cloud.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 02/27/2013

 

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India to Unveil Cyber Security Policy Soon

 

New Delhi: India will soon have a cyber security policy that will ensure preventive measures against cyber crime and fraud, Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour on Wednesday. According to the Minister, the computer emergency response team in India, CERT-In, was monitoring any suspicious move on the Internet in order to checkmate potential cyber attacks from hackers. The minister said that if any instance of fake calls on mobiles or emails promising a big award in exchange of personal information of a user is reported to his Ministry, it will take action. Sibal stressed the need for international agreements, saying that the intermediaries of various internet service providers were located outside India, making it difficult to seek information from them.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 02/27/2013

 

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Govt. Has Set Norms for Attracting FDI for Development of Airport, Says Ajit Singh

 

Government informed the Lok Sabha that it has set prescribed norms for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for development of airports, including greenfield projects, but has not received any proposal. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said during Question Hour that the government has been encouraging FDI for development of various airports and has set prescribed norms for attracting it in the civil aviation sector. “No FDI has come in the airport sector so far in the country,” Singh said in a written reply. The minister informed the House that 100 per cent FDI equity is permitted for greenfield airports as well as existing projects. In reply to demands from some members for including their constituencies on the Air India flight routes, Singh said, “Airlines decide this on commercial considerations. We don’t ask airlines to start flights to certain destinations except the North-East, Jammu & Kashmir and the Andamans.” He said the new terminal of Kolkata airport is in use while the new terminal at Chennai airport is facing some ground handling problems. No airport use charges are being levied at Chennai due to this. He said his ministry will look into the demand for building an airport at Kokrajhar in the northeast while efforts are on to have a civilian enclave at the Jhansi airport which is now with the defence ministry.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 03/20/2013

 

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SRI LANKA: Two New Drinking Water Projects for North

 

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa opened two newly-completed drinking water projects in Adampan, Mannar and Nedunkerni, Vauniya on Sunday. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa opens the drinking water project in Adampan in the Mannar district Minister Rajapaksa initiated the projects under the Economic Development Ministry Uthuru Wasanthaya (Northern Spring) Emergency Northern Recovery Project to solve the drinking water problem of people returning to their homes after the end of the war. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board undertook the work with funds allocated by the Economic Development Ministry for the development and reconstruction programmes in the North. The two projects will provide drinking water to 12,594 families in 16 Grama Seva Divisions in Adampan in the Mannar district and Nedunkerni in the Vauniya district, Economic Development Ministry’s Re-awakening Project director S K Liyanage said. Over two million litres of water can be stored under these projects. The LTTE totally destroyed the earlier water supply system in Adampan during the conflict. It will provide drinking water to 5,860 people in the eight Grama Seva Divisions of Nadukkandal, Wedidayanmurippu, Adampan, Papamodeyi, Palayikul, Minukkan, Maligayikidal and Sonapuri. The project in Vavuniya has replaced the old and dilapidated small drinking water supply system in Nedunkerni. The new project will supply drinking water to 6,734 people in eight Grama Seva divisions of Paddikudiirippu, Katikulam, Nedunkerni South and North, Olumadu, Mamadu, Kulavisuddan and Mareyi Ilappayi.

From http://www.dailynews.lk 03/05/2013

 

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MALDIVES: Political Party Bill Passed with Automatic Presidential Assent

 

According to the constitution any Bill returned to the parliament for reconsideration shall be assented to by the President and published in the government gazette if the Bill, after reconsideration, is passed without any amendments, by a majority of the parliament. The bill stipulates that a new party can only be formed with the signatures of 10,000 members. If a political party slips below the 10,000 members in the registry, the Elections Commissions must give notice to the respective party along with three months to reach the required membership. Existing political parties with less than 10,000 members would also be given three months to register the required number of members from the date the Bill is ratified. If a party fails to secure 10,000 members the respective party will be dissolved. The President while returning the bill had pointed out that it has contradictions with the constitution and if ratified could restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 03/05/2013

 

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NEPAL: Court Stays Govt's One-Door Ad Policy

 

The Supreme Court on Sunday stayed the government's new policy on distribution of advertisements to media organisations proportionally from a single channel. A single bench of Justice Girish Chandra Lal ordered the government not to implement the policy until another ruling. The bench also asked the petitioners and the defendants to be present before the bench on March 13. Advertisement agency owners had moved the court, saying that the new policy was unfair and ill-intended. Big media houses particularly Kantipur Publications, which is one of the major beneficiaries of government advertisements under the previous policy, had criticised the new regulations, which would come into effect from March 21. Kantipur daily has argued that that the "one-door policy" is targeted against media organisations that are critical of the government. On the other hand, the government said the new regulations are aimed at systematising the distribution of government advertisement and that smaller media organisations would also benefit from it.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 03/04/2013

 

 

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PAKISTAN: Govt Taking Measures to Meet Energy Needs

 

ISLAMABAD: Member National Assembly of Pakistan Peoples Party, Amina Sadaat Qaimkhani on Saturday said that present government is taking special interest in the energy sector to meet the growing demand of the consumers of this country. She appreciated President Asif Ali Zardari for making Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project with success. Talking to Pakistan Television, she said that the government is taking measures to resolve the energy crisis in the country. She said that fluctuation in the petroleum prices was directly linked with the prices in the international market. Replying to a question, she said "The government is paying foreign currency to the companies involved in the drilling and exploration of gas and petroleum products." PPP MNA said that hike in petroleum prices was also linked with dollar. Replying to another question, she said the people are facing problems due to weak policies of the past regimes.

 

She said that there was need to take proper action in formulating the policies for exploring gas and petroleum products. Qaimkhani said that present government was making all-out efforts to produce gas and electricity products so that the people could enjoy the facilities without facing any difficulties. Parliamentary Secretary on Petroleum Rukhsana Butter said that there was serious need to take solid measures for meeting future demands in the energy sector. She said that the government was also not happy over price hike in the petroleum sector. She said that there was need to expedite works for exploring, drilling and digging gas and petroleum so that the essential products could be made possible for public. She said that the people involved in the drilling process must be provided proper facilities like peaceful environment in the exploring areas.

From http://www.brecorder.com 03/03/2013

 

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AZERBAIJAN: Communications Ministry to Support 'Electronic Village' Project

 

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies will support the 'Electronic village' project, lawyer of the non-profit organisation IREX Alasgar Mammadli told Trend. According to Mammadli, starting July, the project will be fully subordinated to the Ministry. Within the project, Internet kiosks were installed in 30 regions of Azerbaijan, 26 of which are connected via fibre-optic lines. "These kiosks are used by a fairly wide range of groups. Implementation of the electronic Azerbaijan state programme has led to creation of the State Agency for Services to Citizens and Social Innovations (ASAN-Xidm t) and increase in number of electronic services provided by government agencies. Accordingly, a parallel development of infrastructure is required for bringing electronic services to the masses," Mammadli said. Installation of electronic kiosks is conducted within the IREX-initiated 'Electronic Village project '. The cost is estimated at $100,000. The main purpose of installing Internet kiosks in the regions of the country is to provide the population with access to information for the citizens to have the opportunity to carry out online payments, apply in an electronic form to public agencies and to complain about existing problems. Do you have any feedback Contact our journalist at agency@trend.az Tags: IREX, ASAN-Xidm t, Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies (c) 2013 Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan) Visit Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan) at en.trend.az Distributed by MCT Information Services.

From http://callcenterinfo.tmcnet.com/ 02/27/2013

 

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Azerbaijan Passes New Law to Protect Children

 

Protection of children - the future builders of the statehood - has always been a priority for Azerbaijan's government. Much work has been done and a number of legislative acts have been adopted in the country to ensure social and legal protection of children. One of such legislative acts -- the law on compulsory medical examinations of children -- was adopted by the Azerbaijani parliament on Tuesday. The compulsory medical examination will be conducted at least once a year at the expense of the state. According to the Azerbaijani legislation, each newborn is to be registered at the state medical service and examined in the appropriate order. Annual medical examinations of children are of particular importance to ensure good health of the new generation in the country. Timely and proper examinations of children will contribute to elimination of most of the diseases. The cost rates for medical examinations of each child will be determined by a relevant body of the executive authority. The law also envisages medical examinations of the children deprived of parental care, the disabled and others. The compulsory medical examination of children in public health facilities will be financed through the state budget, and the regulations of funding will be determined by the relevant executive authority. Azerbaijan first adopted the Law on Children's Rights in 1998. The law defines children's rights and freedoms, the basic principles of the state policy regarding children, the duties of state bodies and other legal and physical entities concerning their protection in accordance with Azerbaijan's Constitution, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international documents. Since 1992, Azerbaijan has been a member of the UN`s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 03/07/2013

 

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Azerbaijani Parliament Passes Government's Report as of 2012

 

The Azerbaijani parliament passed a government report as of the activity in 2012 on Friday. This decision was supported by 104 MPs. Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade submitted a report to the Parliament and said that the main feature of the Azerbaijani economic life in 2012 was to accelerate the diversification of the country's economy. "Previously, the GDP growth was ensured through the mining industry, but now the economy is growing at the expense of the non-oil sector," he said. "In 2012, GDP increased by 2.2 percent, non-oil GDP - 9.7 percent." He said that around $25.8 billion were invested in the Azerbaijani economy from all sources last year, 75 percent of which were invested in the non-oil sector. In general, Azerbaijan's average annual GDP growth hit 13 percent, non-oil sector - 10.6 percent, investment in fixed capital increased by 7.3 times in 2003-2012. The economy increased by more than three times. The investments in economic development hit $132 billion. The state budget increased by 19 times, strategic currency reserves - 29 times, lending to the economy - 20.5 times, the population's income - 6.9 times, the average monthly salary - 6.3 times, the average amount of pensions - 6.4 times within 10 years. Over one million jobs were created during the period. The poverty rate declined from 44.7 percent to 6 percent. The official exchange rate is 0,7848 AZN/USD on March 17.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/17/2013

 

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Azerbaijan to Approve ICT Action Plan Soon

 

An action plan on Azerbaijan's information and communication technologies sector for 2013 will be approved in the near future, after which the implementation of its aims will be carried out, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Iltimas Mammadov said Friday. According to Mammadov, realization of major projects is planned during the year, including expanding broadband internet in the regions and remote settlements of the country. The action plan involves a number of social and organizational activities which will cover development of the ICT regulatory framework, strengthening the ICT sector's potential, expanding the information-oriented society and human resources, and international cooperation issues.

 

Cheaper ICT services

According to Azerbaijan Web Community chairman Galib Gurbanov, Internet fees are expected to go down considerably in 2013, which will be a notable event on the Web market. "The action plan includes a clause requiring a decrease of channels' lease for internet service and communication providers, which will definitely affect internet service tariffs for end-users," he said earlier. At present, Internet fees for connection speed of 1 Mbit/s account for about 3 percent of the average wage in Azerbaijan. For comparison's sake, the fees are up to 20 percent of wages in developing countries. The action plan also envisions working out a new law on information and information security, as the current law adopted in 1996 is outdated. The new law will include legal control of the e-government and electronic service provision issues.

 

Awareness efforts

The ICT sector's development and its spread in everyday life necessitate educational programs for the population to protect it from fraud on the Internet and other menaces. According to Faig Farmanov, Electronic Security Center's head, the center under the ICT Ministry, which will start operation within the next two months, will implement preventive measures. According to Farmanov, a hotline will be created in the center. The population will be able to receive the necessary recommendations on the ICT sector by using a three-digit phone number, which is planned to be opened. "To increase the level of security and in some degree protect databases from illegal intrusions, the center will prepare recommendations and determine criteria to be complied with," Farmanov said. The center also plans publication of analytical reviews, statistical figures on computer attacks, virus activity, etc. The reviews will inform users about safety risks in time, which will significantly decrease the damage inflicted by malware and hacker attacks.

 

Broadband services' expansion

Another important aspect of the action plan is increasing the quality of TV and radio broadcasting, transition to digital broadcasting, expansion of broadband services, further development of electronic services and simplification of access to e-services. The ICT ministry plans a full transition to the digital TV format by the end of 2013, while currently, 93 percent of the country's population is covered by the digital signal. Azerbaijan has maintained its leading position among the CIS countries in terms of broadband Internet penetration over the past three years. Internet penetration rates increased from 65 to 70 percent in 2012. Work was carried out to improve the quality of data transmission services. The capacity of international communication channels more than doubled compared to 2011 and fees were reduced by 35 percent. Some 103 million manats (about $131 million) have been allocated for the implementation of a broadband Internet development project in Azerbaijan in 2013, which means further spread of broadband Internet in the country and an increase of Internet users to 85 percent. 2013 was declared a year of ICT in Azerbaijan, according to a decree signed by President Ilham Aliyev.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 03/18/2013

 

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Azerbaijani State Oil Fund Announces Plans for 2013

 

The Azerbaijani State Oil Fund (SOFAZ) will bring its own gold reserves up to 30 tons by late 2013, SOFAZ head Shahmar Movsumov said in an interview with The Business Year: Azerbaijan 2013. "According to SOFAZ current investment policy, up to five percent of our investment portfolio may fall to gold," he said. "We started making our investments in this kind of assets in February 2012 and acquired about 15 tons by the end of last year." He said that as a kind of assets, gold has several unique characteristics that make it attractive to investors. Gold can act as an effective tool of hedging inflation and currency risks in the long term prospect. Moreover, gold ensures protection against high volatility in the financial markets during economic downturns. SOFAZ buys physical gold on the London Metal Exchange and temporarily stores it in JP Morgan's London vault. SOFAZ has already begun bringing gold to Azerbaijan. The first batch of gold was imported into the country on January 11, the second batch - on February 1 and the third batch - on March 1. Referring to the plans for this year, Movsumov stressed that 2012 was marked by SOFAZ's entering the state securities market, real estate and gold. SOFAZ extended the exposure of currency portfolio, which includes the Australian dollar, the Russian ruble and Turkish lira in 2012. SOFAZ will continue working in this direction, as well as to further diversify the investment portfolio in 2013. "We plan to increase our exposure for public and private shares," he said. "We will also strengthen our position in the real estate. Currently, we are examining new regions attractive for making investments in property." According to SOFAZ's investment strategy, up to 5 % of SOFAZ investment portfolio may be invested in assets, up to 5 % - in real estate and up to 5 % - in gold for the first time since 2012. SOFAZ was established in 1999 when its assets amounted to $271 million. As of Jan. 1, 2013, SOFAZ's assets hit $34.129 billion. The main purposes of the fund are the accumulation of funds and placement of the fund's assets abroad to minimise the negative impact on the economy preventing a 'Dutch syndrome' to ensure savings for future generations and to maintain the current socio-economic standard in the country.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/18/2013

 

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KAZAKHSTAN: Over Three Trillion Tenge to Be Allotted to Employment Programme 2013-2015

 

Over the coming three years it is planned to spend over 3 trillion Tenge on increasing and safeguarding employment. The plan was reported by the Minister of Economy and Budget Planning Erbolat Dossayev during Government Hour in Majilis. It is one of the measures under the anti-crisis “Road Map”, the development of which will be completed by the middle of April this year. Its main objectives are to encourage self-employed people, combat illegal labour migration and finance social projects.

 

 Erbolat DOSSAYEV, MINISTER OF ECONOMY AND BUDGET PLANNING:

- For the expansion of the labour market first of all large infrastructural and industrial projects will be financed. Construction of the Balkhash heat power station and a gas-and-chemical complex in Atyrau has already started, and the construction of railway lines “Zhezkazgan-Beineu” and “Arkalyk-Shubarkul” will continue. In April we will start construction of the “Tobol-Astana-Kokshetau” gas pipeline.

From http://www.caspionet.kz/ 03/04/2013

 

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Kazakh Government to Consider Amendments to Law on Subsoil

 

The Kazakh government will consider amendments to the law on 'Subsoil and Subsoil Use' in April which should facilitate the activity of subsoil users, Vice Minister of Industry and New Technologies of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nurlan Sauranbayev told Trend on Wednesday. "The law on 'Subsoil and Subsoil Use' with amendments will be submitted to the government, and then on to the parliament in April," he said. It will greatly facilitate the activity of subsoil users and increase the investment attractiveness of the country's geology." He said the main developer of the new law is the Oil and Gas Ministry. The Ministry of Industry and New Technologies will make amendments and changes resulting in a common position being created. He said the need for amendments to the current law was caused by the fact that the version of the document was written with little emphasis towards the oil and gas industry. "Naturally our oil industry is the engine of the economy," he said. "There was such a situation that it was necessary to go through the same procedure as to obtain a contract for the oil field development to get a contract for gravel and sand. The existing provisions of the law are correct for the oil industry, but they unsuitable for solid minerals." He added that according to the current version of the law, exploration and production have been equated. In general, it is wrong for solid minerals. "Exploration is a risky business and the state must encourage investors by facilitating tax points," he said. "Second, we envisaged that after exploration an investor must not depend on officials. The user must automatically receive the right to extract natural resources in case of a successful outcome of exploration." The amendments to the law on 'Subsoil and Subsoil Use' will cover five major companies operating in the Kazakh mining industry, namely, ENRC, Kazzinc, Kazakhmys, Kazatomprom and Arsellor Mittal.

From http://www.individual.com/ 03/08/2013

 

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TURKMENISTAN: Regulations on Housing Privatisation Adopted

 

The Turkmenistan Mejlis (parliament), approved and unanimously adopted the draft on a new housing code, an official Turkmen source announced. Adoption of this new legislative act is intended to promote the formation and development of housing market as one of the components of the new economic relations, the announcement says. The new document is about realising the guaranteed right of citizens to housing and new forms of purchasing housing accommodation into ownership. It establishes regulations on management and exploitation of residential houses and their neighbourhoods. Provision of appropriate conditions for the realisation of citizens' constitutional right to state support in the acquisition of comfortable housing accommodation, free independent access to their housing rights and creation of competition of services in access to housing market accommodation, legal protection of rights and other housing related rights and interests in legal contracts are the main tasks of the Housing code. At the beginning of the year President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov drew deputies' attention to the fact that the creation of the Housing Code is being delayed. "I am sure the document that will fully ensure a citizen's right to housing enshrined in the Constitution will be prepared soon," he stated. The head of state noted that the government has always paid and continues to pay special attention to citizens' social protection under conditions of a gradual transition to a free market economy.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/04/2013

 

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Turkmenistan Ratifies Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation with Switzerland

 

The Majlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan ratified the Convention on avoidance of double taxation with the Swiss Confederation with respect to taxes on income and capital, Turkmen government said on Thursday. The document was signed in October 2012 in Bern after negotiations at the highest level. Presidents of Turkmenistan and Switzerland - Gurbanguly Berdymuhammadov and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf signed the Convention. Turkmenistan is interested in cooperation with Switzerland in areas such as mechanical engineering, chemical, textile, electrical and electronics, as well as pharmaceutical industry. In Bern the parties also agreed to further enhance joint activities in the multilateral format, in particular, within the UN and other authoritative international organizations, as well as continuing the practice of regular consultations between foreign ministries of the two countries.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/14/2013

 

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AUSTRALIA: Join Convention on Cybercrime Treaty

 

Last year, Australia passed the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 as part of the prerequisites to become a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. While extending the scope of Commonwealth-related computer offences, it also, controversially, required internet service providers (ISPs) to store customer data on persons deemed under suspicion by law-enforcement agencies. This information is stored without warrant, but only handed over once law enforcement obtains one. At the time, it was generally supported by the Labor and Coalition governments, but the Greens held some reservations about the new legislation. One of the concerns raised by Greens spokesperson Scott Ludlam was that if information was sent overseas, nothing would prevent it from coming back under weaker privacy laws. This would theoretically open a loophole for anyone wanting to circumvent the local Privacy Act. The Greens' concerns were ultimately voted against in parliament.

 

Debate over the issue has been significant, with some stating that the legislation is a step backward, and that it opens the door to a complete data-retention scheme. The latter is now being debated in a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said that in addition to enabling local law enforcement to access and share information with international counterparts, Australians' privacy protections would be maintained. "A warrant is always required to access the content of a communication, whether the information is in Australia, or accessed from overseas under the Cybercrime Convention," he said in a statement. "The Cybercrime Act and the Cybercrime Convention do not impact in any way on the need to have a warrant to access content from a telephone call, SMS, or email."

From http://www.zdnet.com 03/04/2013

 

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Australia to Take Further Action to Eliminate Modern Slavery: PM

 

Australian government will implement its new measures aimed at cracking down on slavery and people smuggling, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Friday, the International Women's Day. According to a statement from her, as people celebrate International Women's Day, Australian government will ensure that its procurement rules and practices assist in identifying and stamping out slavery. Slavery and people-trafficking are crimes that affect almost every nation on earth -- as either source, transit or destination countries. And it is not a phenomenon to which Australia is immune. "I'm proud to announce a new whole-of-government strategy to reinforce ethical behavior in procurement so that no firm providing goods or services to the Commonwealth is tainted by slavery or people-trafficking anywhere in the supply chain." Gillard said. She pointed out about 16 million women worldwide have been enslaved and trafficked over the past decade, and it is imperative governments work to restore people's freedom. Although there is no evidence that is currently happening, she said, there is a risk of it becoming an issue as the global economy becomes more integrated. Last year, Australian parliament passed legislation creating new offences of forced marriage and harboring a victim, which Gillard said will enable authorities to charge accomplices as well as the principal perpetrator. And the legislation was officially signed into law by Governor-General Quentin Bryce on Thursday.

From http://www.globaltimes.cn 03/08/2013

 

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FIJI: Draft Constitution Released

 

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama released the draft document in Suva, Thursday. And instead of presenting the draft document to the Constituent Assembly, under the previous arrangement, he said it would be presented directly to the people. He said the general public had until April 5 to provide feedback on the draft document. "My fellow Fijians, you will be the new Constituent Assembly," he said last night. Commodore Bainimarama said the constitutional process that he commenced with the Ghai Commission was modified. This, he said, was done to ensure that the fundamental principles of parliamentary representation and efficient and transparent government were implemented through a forward-looking constitution. He said next week government would hold a number of community forums at which members of the public and representatives of organisations could attend to ask government's legal team questions on any aspect of the draft constitution. He said as seen through the constitutional submissions, many Fijians were concerned about their day-to-day living and access to better facilities and utilities.

 

Following these consultations and the general public's feedback, he said they would finalise the constitution to have it ready for implementation no later than April 12 this year. Commodore Bainimarama said the draft constitution had rights to housing and sanitation, reasonable access to transportation, adequate food and water and social security schemes. Some of the highlights of the key components of the draft constitution are:

 * Sovereign control to a single house in Parliament, which is represented by members elected by the people;

 * Parliament shall be made up of 45 representatives for a four-year term.

 

Commodore Bainimarama said some key components of the draft are:

* To attract good quality and honest parliamentarians who will be paid accordingly and who will not be corrupt;

* provide for not only civil and political rights, but also, a wide range of socio-economic rights.

* gives specific rights to persons with disabilities and to children;

* create a secular State where citizens are treated equally regardless of religion;

* has proportional representation through a multi member constituency which will give enhanced opportunities for women and the youth to be in Parliament;

* give more independence to the judiciary to control their own budget and finances as approved by Parliament. FICAC and the DPPs office shall control their own affairs;

* create a Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission to give protection to all citizens irrespective of their backgrounds or socio-economic status;

* create an independent Electoral Commission with appropriate powers; and

* gives people the right to change the constitution once implemented via a referendum.

 

Commodore Bainimarama, however, urged the general public to read the draft document which would be available in all government outlets. "In assessing the draft, please understand that it has been put together by incorporating the positive aspects of the Ghai draft and with the view to withstand the test of time," he said. "Constitutional, political and economic stability is critical to create a prosperous Fiji.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/22/2013

 

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KIRIBATI: SPC Prepares Kiribati Advocates for Consultations on Violence Against Women Legislation

 

The Kiribati Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs (MISA) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT) facilitated a workshop for community representatives from 11 to 13 March in Tarawa to advance their knowledge and skills of advocating for improved legislation to address violence against women. Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Honourable Attorney General of Kiribati, Titabu Tabane, said he was alarmed at the high rate of violence against women and children in Kiribati reported in the 2008 Kiribati family health and safety study. ‘The study found that 68% of women between 15 and 49 years of age have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse and most of the violence occurs at home or in the family. This translates to two out of every five women in Kiribati suffering physical and/or sexual abuse or violence. This is one of the highest, if not the highest in the Pacific,’ the Hon. Tabane said. He reaffirmed that violence against women in Kiribati must be addressed appropriately, and legislative reform is a key step in protecting women and children from all forms of abuse, violence, discrimination and exploitation.

 

Kiribati has prepared draft legislation entitled Kiribati Te Rau N Te Mweenga Bill 2012, or the Family Peace Bill. The bill is expected to go before Kiribati’s parliament this year. In preparation, national consultations to create awareness about the bill are required. MISA, with support from SPC RRRT, is undertaking to train community representatives for community consultations. Speaking at the workshop, Gina Houng Lee, RRRT Senior Trainer, said, ‘It’s great to see Kiribati come this far. In 2011, the Government requested SPC RRRT to draft the violence against women legislation and, with support from AusAID and the Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) Reference Group, the Family Peace Bill was drafted in 2012. This workshop focuses on educating community advocates on key provisions of the draft bill and supporting the development of practical strategies for community awareness about the bill.’ The Family Peace Bill provides instruction on measures to prevent and respond to domestic violence and on how government and its agencies, as well as service providers, can support victims and their dependents. It also includes several measures that are critical to holding offenders accountable.

 

The training is part of the SPC RRRT Project: Support to the Government of Kiribati to implement the national approach to support the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in Kiribati: Policy and National Plan 2011–2012, Preparatory Phase, funded by UN Women. It is a result of a yet earlier project – Changing laws: protecting women and girls – undertaken by RRRT from 2009–2012 under the UN Trust Fund on Prevention of Violence Against Women grant. The project involved developing and building a task force of advocates and providing a set of drafting instructions on VAW legislation that is compliant with global human rights standards.

From http://www.spc.int/ 03/14/2013

 

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NEW ZEALAND: Focus Goes on Latin America

 

When Prime Minister John Key lands in Mexico tomorrow it will have been more than a decade since the last New Zealand prime minister toured Latin America, and he concedes the region has been neglected in favour of Asian economies. Helen Clark toured in 2002 but the only visits since have been for Apec meetings. Mr Key has instead focused his overseas energies on China, other Asian countries, and Europe - which included trying to give momentum to trade talks with countries such as India and Russia. "Latin America presents great opportunities over time for New Zealand but they are not as immediate as the prospects in Asia and other parts of the world. So we've had to prioritise, especially with the Asian strategy. I think in the short term that has been the right move for New Zealand. But this is part of laying the foundations for parts of the world which are clearly going to be more dominant over time." He said the Gulf states fell into the same category.

 

"Helen Clark identified in the early 2000s that it is an area in which we could do more business, and I think given the size of countries like Brazil and Mexico and Colombia, over time there is a lot of business for New Zealand there." The Government produced its Latin America Strategy in 2010 aimed at strengthening ties with the region - but a Trade and Enterprise report on progress a year later observed that there was a need for a greater focus on building political links, especially at a head of state level and with a particular focus on Brazil. There are hopes that the Prime Minister's visit will be a "game changer", particularly in Brazil - considered the least outward-looking of the four nations in question. It is the region New Zealand has to work hardest in as it does the ground work on a trade agreement with the Mercosur Latin American nations not involved in the TPP, led by Brazil. Other issues that will take up most of Mr Key's time include:

 

Colombia

While New Zealand's ties with Chile and Mexico go back decades, links with Colombia are more recent. Mr Key will be the first New Zealand leader to visit Colombia, where he will meet President Juan Manuel Santos. "Colombia is quite a big country and it's growing very rapidly, It's had very solid growth year-on-year. So it's likely to emerge as quite a significant player over time in Latin America. That's one of the reasons we are going there. They are quite like-minded on matters like trade and the like. So we are hopeful we can make [progress]."

 

Trans Pacific Partnership

Mexico and Chile are both among the 11 countries in negotiations for the TPP - Chile's President Sebastian Pinera is closely aligned with Mr Key on the talks but a change in leader can mean a change in the country's stance on it - and Mexican President Peno Nieto was only elected last December. Mr Key will be the first foreign leader to hold a bilateral with Mr Nieto and sound out where he stands.

 

Security Council seat 2015/16

Mr Key will use the visit to lobby for the four countries' votes for New Zealand to secure a seat on the Security Council in 2015/16. Turkey and Spain are contesting the same seat - and the elections for it will be held next year. Although it is convention for countries not to publicly reveal who they will support, Mr Key said three of the four countries he would visit had already indicated they would support New Zealand - and he would be trying to shore that up. "You never know until they vote." He said Latin America was an important voting bloc. Brazil has been pushing since at least 2009 to secure a permanent seat on the Security Council, arguing its size and economic heft justifies it. New Zealand has pushed for reform of the Security Council, including limits on the veto rights held by permanent members.

 

It's business time

Mr Key will have a delegation of about 22 business people with him, looking for trade opportunities. Although they include the "big players" such as Zespri and Fonterra, which has a farm in Chile, Mr Key will visit, the majority are niche agri-technology companies. He said that was because the countries concerned were big producers of beef and lamb themselves so did not provide the same opportunities as countries such as China. The biggest value was in agricultural services, technology, international education, air services and technology companies. Those smaller business delegates range from the makers of a machine to sort out soft-skinned fruit such as blueberries by colour, to a satellite and communications systems developer which services the US Army and the Colombian Army.

 

Education

Chile, Brazil and Colombia are the biggest Latin American markets for international students coming to New Zealand - especially at a secondary school level, when many students travel to an English-speaking country. Education NZ will be on the trip, as well as the Manukau Institute of Technology, trying to increase the numbers of tertiary students.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/04/2013

 

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Government to Push Infrastructure Development - PM O'Neill

 

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the government will continue to stimulate the growth of the economy through infrastructure development. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for Rimbunan Hijau Group’s K380 million (US$179 million) Raintree Hotel and Suites by Vision City project last Friday at Vision City, O’Neill made an assurance of the government’s commitment to infrastructure development. He conducted the groundbreaking rites with RH executive chairman Tan Sri Datuk Sir Tiong Hiew King. “I want to assure you that the government, as a major player in the economy, will continue to invest so that we can stimulate the growth of our economy in the coming years,” O’Neill said. “One of our investments is investing in our infrastructure. “This will enable the economy to grow. “We are investing more than K3 billion(US$1.4 billion) this year alone in infrastructure programmes. “The Highlands Highway is one of these, the port development in Lae … we are looking at the relocation of the port in Port Moresby. These are key infrastructure that will underpin the continuous growth of our economy. This is why we, as government, continue to support businesses like the RH Group in making sure that they enjoy the stability that they deserve, so that there is security of their investments.” O’Neill, however, stressed the need for a government that was proactive. “I have said on many occasions that I do not want a government that is fat and slow,” he said. “We want a government that is lean and mean in doing business. “That is why we are always urging our government machinery to perform.”

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 03/13/2013

 

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Good Governance Enhances Budget Oversight

 

Budget oversight through good governance is important because it makes governments work for the people, the World Bank emphasized at a joint workshop for parliamentarians and government officials from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam on March 4, 2013. Alassane Sow, country manager of the World Bank in Cambodia, explained that governance is about the process of decision-making. It’s the process by which decisions are implemented so government can deliver better services to the people. “Building a system of budget oversight requires budget transparency. It also needs the involvement of all actors,” he said. “A full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information, in a timely and systematic manner, is critical. This will promote effective oversight by formal government institutions as well as informal networks and actors that have a key stake in the outcomes of the national budget,” Cheam Yeap, the chairman of the Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and State Audit for Cambodia, said that governments are responsible for parliamentary oversight. “The budget is at the heart of efforts to improve governance and accountability in all countries. It is crucial in reducing poverty. The parliament can make an important contribution by expanding its oversight role throughout the budget cycle,” he said.

 

World Bank Senior Public Sector Management Specialist Leah April shared good practices for transparency. She said that budget transparency requires clear roles and responsibilities, an open budget process, and reporting. The Finance Ministry should also actively encourage citizens and government organizations to understand the budget process. “There are many benefits if the government increases transparency. There is a growing international consensus and compelling evidence demonstrating that fiscal transparency is directly linked to improved social outcomes and greater economic stability,” she said. Participants looked at the progress of the parliaments of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. They also discussed the challenges involved in overseeing the national budget. They then developed future action plans for each country based on lessons learned from their experience. The three-day workshop was supported by the World Bank, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the European Union. Representatives of the National Assembly Committees on Finance and Budget, Supreme Audit Institutions, and Economy and Finance Ministries from the three countries attended the workshop.

From http://www.worldbank.org 03/20/2013

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Promoting Cooperation on Data Transfer Systems Between Europe and the Asia-Pacific

 

Representatives of the Article 29 Working Party (WP29), in which all European Union data protection authorities are assembled, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation recently met for the first time in Jakarta, Indonesia to develop a set of tools to facilitate transfers of personal data, for multi-national companies that operate both in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. In the EU, Binding Corporate Rules (BCR) have been developed in order to govern international data transfers made by companies or groups of companies. These binding internal rules define a company’s policies on data transfers in order to ensure adequate safeguards for personal data transferred from the EU to third economies. In 2012, APEC member economies completed the development of the Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system for the protection of personal data throughout the Asia-Pacific. Like the BCR system, the CBPR system is designed to ensure that a company’s privacy policies meet established standards for the protection of personal information. Such policies must be validated by APEC-recognized Accountability Agents. Both the EU BCR system and the CBPR system are based on a similar approach, which is the use of internal binding rules for cross-border transfers of personal data, subject to prior approval by EU Data Protection Authorities or by APEC-recognized Accountability Agents.

 

The WP29 recently concluded a study of the CBPR system in order to identify the similarities and differences with the BCR system. Using this initial comparison as a starting point, the WP29 and participating APEC economies are cooperating to develop practical tools, including a common referential, for those multinational companies that have data collection and/or processing-related activities in both the EU and APEC region. On 31 January 2013, the so-called BCR/CBPR Committee met for the first time to discuss this topic. Participants from the EU included representatives from the CNIL (France), the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Commission. From APEC, 10 member economies participated, including Canada, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States. It is anticipated that a roadmap will be adopted in the upcoming months by the WP29 and APEC in order to continue their cooperation and to materialize such practical tools for use by companies doing business in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Following this meeting, Jacob Kohnstamm, the Chair of the WP29, declared: “This is a great progress in strengthening international cooperation on data protection and in developing global solutions for organizations operating both in the EU and the APEC region.” On the APEC side, Lourdes Yaptinchay, the Chair of the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group, said that “The cooperative work being pursued by APEC member economies and the EU is an important next step towards better protecting personal data and could provide a foundation for more fruitful exchange between companies with a stake in the two regions.”

From http://www.apec.org/ 03/06/2013

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CHINA: Migrant Worker Deputies Increase in NPC

 

The number of farmers-turned migrant workers elected to the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislature, has notably increased. The 11th NPC Standing Committee confirmed Wednesday that 401 workers and farmers, including farmers-turned migrant workers, have been elected deputies to the 12th NPC. Workers and farmers comprised 13.42 percent of the total 2,987 newly-elected deputies, an increase of 5.18 percentage points from the 11th NPC, the Standing Committee announced, as it concluded its three-day bi-monthly session.

From http://www.china.org.cn/ 02/27/2013

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Highlights: Premier Wen's Government Work Report

 

Following are the highlights of a government work report distributed to media ahead the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Tuesday morning.

 

MAJOR TARGETS FOR 2013

-- Gross domestic product (GDP) grows about 7.5 percent.

-- Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase will be kept around 3.5 percent.

-- A deficit of 1.2 trillion yuan (190.48 billion U.S. dollars) is projected, 400 billion more than the budgeted figure last year and accounting for 2 percent of GDP.

-- Add more than 9 million urban jobs.

-- Keep the registered urban unemployment rate at or below 4.6 percent.

-- The government will work to ensure that real per capita income for urban and rural residents increases in step with economic growth.

 

FISCAL AND MONETARY POLICIES FOR 2013

-- China will continue to implement a proactive fiscal policy. The government will give priority to education, medical and health care, social security and other weak areas that are important to people's wellbeing.

-- China will continue to implement a prudent monetary policy. The target for growth of the broad money supply (M2) is about 13 percent.

 

PROGRESS IN PAST FIVE YEARS

-- China's GDP increased from 26.6 trillion yuan to 51.9 trillion yuan, now the world' s second most, by an average annual growth of 9.3 percent.

-- Government revenue went up from 5.1 trillion yuan to 11.7 trillion yuan.

-- The per capita disposable income of urban residents rose by 8.8 percent annually, and the per capita net income of rural residents rose by 9.9 percent.

-- Energy consumption per unit of GDP fell by 17.2 percent.

-- Total chemical oxygen demand, a key index for water quality, fell by 15.7 percent.

-- Total sulfur dioxide emissions fell by 17.5 percent.

-- The government spending on education totaled 7.79 trillion yuan over the past five years and increased annually by 21.58 percent to reach 4 percent of GDP in 2012.

-- The basic old-age insurance system now covers both urban and rural residents, with a total of 790 million people joining various old-age insurance schemes.

-- A basic medical insurance system that covers the whole population is taking shape, and over 1.3 billion people are now covered by different medical insurance schemes.

-- The average life expectancy reached 75 years.

 

WHAT TO DO THIS YEAR

-- This year, basic pensions for enterprise retirees should be raised by 10 percent, and subsistence allowances for urban and rural residents and subsidies for entitled groups should also be further raised.

-- The country will conduct a pilot project to insure against childhood leukemia and 19 other serious diseases.

-- This year, annual government subsidies for the new rural cooperative medical care system and basic medical insurance for non-working urban residents should be raised from 240 yuan to 280 yuan per person respectively.

-- The per person payment standard for basic public health services should be increased from 25 yuan to 30 yuan.

-- This year the country will complete 4.7 million government-subsidized urban housing units, start construction of another 6.3 million units and continue to renew dilapidated rural houses.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/05/2013

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'Chinese Dream' a New Point of Departure for Political Thinking

 

The National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory, recently began their annual meetings, discussing the "Chinese dream," a political framework to guide national thought. The general public was first introduced to this phrase three months ago after Xi Jinping, China's new general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, mentioned it while touring an exhibition highlighting the achievements made by Chinese people. What does this phrase mean in terms of real politics? In light of a new Chinese leadership team, the phrase can mostly be understood as an open framework for political thought in creating new policies. The term's political message underscores its open nature; the "Chinese dream" will help define China and its relationship with the world. Countries with similar historical experiences to China will more readily understand the meaning behind the "Chinese dream." These experiences include century-old lessons learned through the invasion and oppression by Western powers, leading to internal reforms and rebellion. The "Chinese dream" is rooted in China's identity as a rapidly developing Southern nation, and the commitment to gain strength as to avoid a repeat of subservience to outside forces and domestic chaos. In Xi's words, "to revive the Chinese nation is our greatest dream." The thought behind the Chinese dream has been careful to avoid three sources of influence: radical Soviet-style internal reform; Westernized external expansion; and Chinese-style obsessive closed door deliberation.

 

The "Chinese dream" will not necessarily be successful because it chooses to avoid these three dangerous pitfalls, but steps to avoid such common political problems create more possibilities for the dream to work. As indicated by Fu Ying, the year's National People's Congress spokeswoman, the idea that China lags in political reform is a myth created by Western perspectives. The Chinese dream balances the concerns and interests of the state, the private sector and grassroots actors equally. The reform and opening-up policy marked the rise of the private sector. The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee, held in 1978, paved way for the promotion of a market mechanism. The legitimacy of the CPC was initially founded on core economic growth, poverty reduction and the improvement of Chinese living standards. The next year of significance in China's political legitimacy took place in 2003, signifying a new shift in power. Information communication technologies (ICTs) and grassroots activists took the country by storm, and played an important role during the SARS crisis. The state, market and grassroots organizations banded together, and this broad triangular power structure opened new avenues for political dialogue. The "Chinese dream" is based on important Chinese values. From 1840 onwards, Chinese history is decorated with examples of learning from others, as well as the degradation of Chinese traditions. Women are freer than ever before and relationships are less hierarchical. Individuals are learning the importance of living a frugal lifestyle, but few have forgotten the importance of quality education. The story of Mencius' mother moving three times to better her son's education two thousand years ago continues to inspire present Chinese society. These are the most resilient Chinese values that enrich the political implications of the "Chinese dream."

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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Top Legislator Vows to Push 'Rule of Law'

 

China's top legislator Friday vowed to help enhance the "rule of law" in national governance and social management, and keep the power in check through harsher supervision. "We will comprehensively advance law-based governance of the country, and enhance the important role that the rule of law plays in national governance and social management," said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. "We will strengthen constraints and oversight of the exercise of power, oversee and support state bodies in exercising their power in accordance with statutory mandate and procedures," Wu said while delivering a work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the ongoing annual parliamentary session. Wu said the Standing Committee would strengthen oversight of the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Only in this way shall laws be obeyed and strictly enforced and lawbreakers be prosecuted, Wu said. After reviewing the work over the past five years, Wu promised to speed up the "building of a socialist country under the rule of law," and put all the country's work on a legal footing.

 

"We will make legislation more scientific and democratic and expand channels for orderly public participation in legislation," the top legislator said. He said law awareness would be intensified not only among the public, to guide them better express their demands, protect their rights and interests, and resolve disputes, but also among officials. "We will carry out intensive publicity and education about the law, and make officials more aware of the law and better able to act in accordance with it," Wu said. Wu said the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November had set out new requirements for strengthening and improving the work of the NPC. "We will ensure that the people exercise state power through people's congresses ... and make full use of the institutional strength of the people wielding all state power," he said. As the highest body of state power, the NPC Standing Committee will "promptly formulate or revise laws" in regards to the progress of socialist market economy, growth model, people's wellbeing, social management innovations, socialist culture and ecology, Wu said. The year 2013 is the first year of the term of the 12th NPC and its Standing Committee, and also the first year for implementing the guiding principles of the 18th NPC. Wu said a plan for the legislative and oversight work of the Standing Committee this year had been drawn up and passed. He urged the new NPC and its Standing Committee to accomplish their mission and improve the system of people's congresses in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013

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Highlights: Report on Cabinet Reshuffle Plan

 

Following are the highlights of a plan on the State Council institutional reform and transformation of government functions delivered Sunday to the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature. According to the program, China will:

-- dissolve the Railway Ministry, with its administrative powers incorporated into the Ministry of Transport. The China Railway Corporation will take over the Railway Ministry's commercial functions;

-- set up the National Health and Family Planning Commission through merging the existing Health Ministry with the National Population and Family Planning Commission;

-- elevate the status of the State Administration of Food and Drug to a general administration in order to improve food and drug safety;

-- merge its two media regulators, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, into one to oversee the country's press, publication, radio, film and television sectors;

-- restructure the country's top oceanic administration to enhance maritime law enforcement and strengthen protection and use of its oceanic resources; and

-- restructure the National Energy Administration in order to streamline administrative and regulatory system of the energy sector.

 

On the transformation of government functions, the plan says that the government will:

-- cut, reduce or simplify the review and approval of investment projects to minimize the inconvenience and high costs involved when enterprises and individuals are trying to obtain the services they require and boost their independence to start a business or make an investment;

-- separate industrial associations and chambers of commerce from administrative departments, and introduce a competitive mechanism with multiple associations to the same industry to boost their independence and vitality;

-- reduce special transfer payment for designated purposes to local regions through budgeted appropriation, while increase the funding of local governments through general transfer payment to boost local government's fiscal strength to fulfill their duties;

-- integrate identical or similar institutional functions into a sole government department, such as the registry of housing, forest, grassland and land, which currently belongs to different government agencies;

-- break industrial monopoly and administrative hurdles that hamper the circulation of goods and service, and maintain an open and unified domestic market to ensure fairness and orderly competition;

-- increase the government procurement of services and give fair treatment to social organizations in supplying medical care, health, education, culture and community services;

-- establish a unified real estate registry regime to protect the security of property transactions and effectively protect the legal rights of property owners, while setting up a unified social credit code system based on resident ID card numbers and codes for organizations and institutions.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/10/2013

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More Than 30 Ministerial Level Officials Investigated

 

More than 30 officials at the ministerial level or higher have been placed under investigation for corruption or other job-related crimes over the past five years, China's top procurator said Sunday. Prosecutors have investigated about 13,000 officials at the county level or above for job-related crimes since 2008, said Cao Jianming, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), when delivering a work report of the SPP at the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). Great efforts have been made to punish and prevent corruption, Cao said. Prosecutors took about 19,000 bribers to court over the past five years. They investigated about 36,900 administrative law enforcement officials and 12,894 judicial staff in a bid to fight judiciary corruption, according to his report. The SPP set up a national anti-corruption hotline and website, and improved its work in collecting clues and protecting whistleblowers and witnesses, he said. Since 2008, prosecutors, together with other law enforcement agencies, have seized a total of 6,220 escaped suspects of corruption cases. A national database of bribery cases has been established and more than 2 million searches were conducted, according to Cao. This year, prosecutors will continue to pay attention to graft cases which harm public interests, Cao said. The top procurator also warned of outstanding problems in the work of prosecutors. "A small number of prosecutors have abused their power, failed to follow the protocol in the work, or used their power to seek personal profits, which seriously damaged the credit of law enforcement," he said. This year the SPP will work to curb corruption and misconduct among prosecutors and tighten supervision on senior officers of procuratorates, he said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/10/2013

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CPPCC Vows Not to Copy Western Political Systems

 

The newly-elected leader of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) pledged Tuesday that China will promote consultative democracy and will not copy Western political systems under any circumstances. "We need to steadfastly uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), adhere to and improve the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC," said Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the 12th National Committee of the CPPCC, the country's top political advisory body. "We need to more strictly follow the socialist path of political development with Chinese characteristics, not imitate Western political systems under any circumstances, always adhere to the correct political orientation, and strengthen the CPPCC's ideological and political foundations of collective struggle," Yu told more than 2,000 political advisors at the closing meeting of the first session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee. Yu, born in April 1945, was elected to the new post on Monday. He is also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Yu said that thoroughly implementing and studying the guiding principles of the 18th CPC National Congress held in November is the foremost political task of the CPPCC at present and for some time to come. "The most important and core issues while implementing and studying these guiding principles are upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, strengthening confidence, being more conscientious, and achieving self-improvement," he said. Yu also called on the political advisors to constantly deepen their understanding of the path, system of theories and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. "We must doggedly focus on the central task of economic development and serving the overall interests of the country, consciously plan and make arrangements for the work of the CPPCC in the context of the overall work of the Party and country, focus on carrying out investigations, studies, inspections and consultations on major state affairs with a bearing on the overall situation," he said. He said the CPPCC will make more efforts to "adopt pragmatic measures and achieve practical results, advance development in a scientific way, promote social harmony, ensure all the CPPCC's efforts to fulfill its duties are compatible with the central task of economic development, conform to policy-making requirements more fully, and better reflect the people's wishes."

 

CONSULTATIVE DEMOCRACY

In his address to the closing meeting, Yu pledged to promote the consultative democracy, saying that it embodies the intrinsic requirements of socialist democracy. "The CPPCC's consultative democracy takes the Constitution, the CPPCC Charter and relevant policies as its foundation, and the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC as its guarantee," he said. "It integrates consultation, oversight, participation and cooperation; closely combines people's rights to stay informed about, participate in, express views on, and oversee government affairs; embodies the intrinsic requirements of socialist democracy; and accords with the fundamental interests of the people," he said. "We need to plan and carry out the CPPCC's consultative democracy in the context of the overall arrangements for building socialist democracy, adhere to the valuable experience the CPPCC has gained in practicing consultative democracy, strengthen research and exploration into the theory and practice of the CPPCC's consultative democracy, and more quickly build and make innovations in the system of consultative democracy," he said. Yu said that the 18th CPC National Congress pointed out that socialist consultative democracy is an important form of people's democracy in China, and efforts must be made to improve the system of socialist consultative democracy, and make full use of the CPPCC as an important channel of consultative democracy. "We need to genuinely make consultation more effective, incorporate political consultation into the decision-making process, steadfastly carry out consultation before and during decision-making, further standardize the content of consultation, make consultation more representative and inclusive, raise our consultative capability, use the fruits of consultation more widely and better feed them back to relevant organizations, and better manifest the strengths and value of socialist consultative democracy," he said. "We need to thoroughly broaden the forms of consultative democracy; improve consultation on special issues and handling proposals, and with representatives from specific sectors of society and relevant government authorities; make innovations in the way the CPPCC does its normal work; expand the channels for citizens' orderly participation in political affairs; and strive to create a pattern of multilevel, comprehensive consultation," he said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/12/2013

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CPPCC Vows to Promote Consultative Democracy

 

The newly-elected leader of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) pledged Tuesday to promote consultative democracy, saying that it embodies the intrinsic requirements of socialist democracy. "The CPPCC's consultative democracy takes the Constitution, the CPPCC Charter and relevant policies as its foundation, and the system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as its guarantee," said Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the 12th National Committee of CPPCC, the country's top political advisory body. "It integrates consultation, oversight, participation and cooperation; closely combines people's rights to stay informed about, participate in, express views on, and oversee government affairs; embodies the intrinsic requirements of socialist democracy; and accords with the fundamental interests of the people," Yu told more than 2,000 political advisors at the closing meeting of the first session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee. Yu, born in April 1945, was elected to the new post on Monday. He is also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

 

"We need to plan and carry out the CPPCC's consultative democracy in the context of the overall arrangements for building socialist democracy, adhere to the valuable experience the CPPCC has gained in practicing consultative democracy, strengthen research and exploration into the theory and practice of the CPPCC's consultative democracy, and more quickly build and make innovations in the system of consultative democracy," he said. Yu said that the 18th CPC National Congress pointed out that socialist consultative democracy is an important form of people's democracy in China, and efforts must be made to improve the system of socialist consultative democracy, and make full use of the CPPCC as an important channel of consultative democracy. "We need to genuinely make consultation more effective, incorporate political consultation into the decision-making process, steadfastly carry out consultation before and during decision-making, further standardize the content of consultation, make consultation more representative and inclusive, raise our consultative capability, use the fruits of consultation more widely and better feed them back to relevant organizations, and better manifest the strengths and value of socialist consultative democracy," he said. "We need to thoroughly broaden the forms of consultative democracy; improve consultation on special issues and handling proposals, and with representatives from specific sectors of society and relevant government authorities; make innovations in the way the CPPCC does its normal work; expand the channels for citizens' orderly participation in political affairs; and strive to create a pattern of multilevel, comprehensive consultation," he said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/12/2013 

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NPC Endorses Plan to Revamp Cabinet

 

The National People's Congress, the Chinese parliament, adopted a cabinet reshuffle plan at a plenary meeting on Thursday in a bid to reduce bureaucracy and make the government more efficient in the world' most populous country. The endorsement of the plan will bring down the number of ministries under the State Council to 25 from 27, with the breakup of the bulky Ministry of Railways and merger of several other government departments. In overhauling the cabinet, the central government has emphasized the most important task is to transform the government functions and reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues. The institutional restructuring, an important part of China's overall plan to deepen reforms in its administrative system, is a continuation of the previous six major government reshuffles over the past three decades to create an efficient and law-based government with a clear division of power, reasonable distribution of labor and well-defined responsibilities. The restructuring plan came after complaints about the duplication of functions, overlapping management, low efficiency and bureaucracy often lead to corruption and dereliction of duty among officials without proper supervision over administrative power. According to the plan, the Ministry of Railways, which has long been at the center of controversy for being both a railway service provider and a railway industry watchdog, will be split into administrative and commercial units. The Health Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Commission, which will be merged into a new National Health and Family Planning Commission. The status of the existing State Food and Drug Administration will be elevated to a ministerial-level general administration in order to improve food and drug safety. The country's top oceanic administration will be restructured to bring its maritime law enforcement forces, currently scatter throughout different ministries and departments, under the unified management of a single administration. The National Energy Administration will be restructured to streamline the administrative and regulatory systems of the energy sector. Two media regulators, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, will be merged into a single entity to oversee the country's press, publication, radio, film and television sectors.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/14/2013

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Xi Elected President, CMC Chairman

 

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was elected president of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission (CMC) on Thursday. The plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) also elected Zhang Dejiang chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. Li Yuanchao was elected vice-president of the PRC. Elected to vice chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee were Li Jianguo, Wang Shengjun, Chen Changzhi, Yan Junqi, Wang Chen, Shen Yueyue, Ji Bingxuan, Zhang Ping, Qiangba Puncog, Arken Imirbaki, Wan Exiang, Zhang Baowen and Chen Zhu. The post of secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee went to Wang Chen (concurrent). Also elected were 161 members of the 12th NPC Standing Committee. According to the rules of election and appointment adopted at the NPC session, the elections of chairman, vice-chairpersons and secretary-general of the 12th NPC Standing Committee, president and vice-president of the PRC, and chairman of the CMC are non-competitive. And the elections of the NPC Standing Committee members are competitive. This time, 161 members were elected out of 174 candidates, bringing the 7-percent margin in the previous election five years ago to 8 percent. Also at the meeting, NPC deputies adopted a massive cabinet restructuring and streamlining plan which aimed to reduce bureaucracy and make the government more efficient.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/14/2013

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Li Keqiang Endorsed as Chinese Premier

 

Li Keqiang was endorsed as Chinese premier Friday morning at the ongoing session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature. Nearly 3,000 NPC deputies voted to approve the nomination of Li, by newly-elected President Xi Jinping, as the candidate for premier at the ongoing parliament session. He has been the seventh premier since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, replacing Wen Jiabao who had headed the State Council since 2003. Li, born in 1955 in Anhui Province, joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1976 and graduated from Peking University with law and economics degrees. After working as provincial leaders in Henan and Liaoning provinces, he was elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2007 and appointed vice premier in 2008. Li was re-elected to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in November.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/15/2013

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Premier Li Nominates New Cabinet Members

 

Premier Li Keqiang nominated a list of candidates for members of the State Council, or China's cabinet, at the ongoing national legislative session on Saturday afternoon. Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yandong, Wang Yang and Ma Kai were nominated as vice premiers. Yang Jing, Chang Wanquan, Yang Jiechi, Guo Shengkun and Wang Yong were nominated as state councilors. Yang Jing was also nominated as secretary-general of the cabinet.

 

The following are candidates for cabinet ministers:

-- Wang Yi, nominated to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

-- Chang Wanquan, nominated to head the Ministry of National Defense

-- Xu Shaoshi, nominated to head the National Development and Reform Commission

-- Yuan Guiren, nominated to head the Ministry of Education

-- Wan Gang, nominated to head the Ministry of Science and Technology

-- Miao Wei, nominated to head the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

-- Wang Zhengwei, nominated to head the State Ethnic Affairs Commission

-- Guo Shengkun, nominated to head the Ministry of Public Security

-- Geng Huichang, nominated to head the Ministry of State Security

-- Huang Shuxian, nominated to head the Ministry of Supervision

-- Li Liguo, nominated to head the Ministry of Civil Affairs

-- Wu Aiying, nominated to head the Ministry of Justice

-- Lou Jiwei, nominated to head the Ministry of Finance

-- Yin Weimin, nominated to head the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security

-- Jiang Daming, nominated to head the Ministry of Land and Resources

-- Zhou Shengxian, nominated to head the Ministry of Environmental Protection

-- Jiang Weixin, nominated to head the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development

-- Yang Chuantang, nominated to head the Ministry of Transport

-- Chen Lei, nominated to head the Ministry of Water Resources

-- Han Changfu, nominated to head the Ministry of Agriculture

-- Gao Hucheng, nominated to head the Ministry of Commerce

-- Cai Wu, nominated to head the Ministry of Culture

-- Li Bin, nominated to head the National Health and Family Planning Commission

-- Zhou Xiaochuan, nominated to head the People's Bank of China

-- Liu Jiayi, nominated as auditor general of the National Audit Office.

 

At the sixth plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), NPC deputies will vote on the new lineup of the cabinet.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/16/2013

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China’s Institutional Reform Goes with the Tide of the Globe

 

Nations compete not only in economic, military and scientific and technological fields, but also in administration. The new round of government institutional reform aims at streamlining administration and delegating power to the lower levels, stimulating market and social vitality, respecting changing national situation, and going with tide of the globe in optimization of administration. Since the outbreak of the financial crisis, major European and American economies have gone through huge changes. Institutional reform has become a governance concept for major countries to promote economic transformation and recovery. More efficient government, more transparent communication between government and enterprises and more favorable investment environment... Reform intentions of some countries have been announced, and the competition between them has started. US President Obama put forward a reform scheme on commerce departments in 2011. According to the reform scheme, the Obama administration plans to integrate six agencies responsible for commerce and trade into a new one which will provide one-stop services for enterprises. The British administration put forth reform plan for governmental agencies in 2010, and updated it in the following two years. Now, British commerce, education, culture, environment, health and justice departments have promulgated detailed rules for implementation, made objectives for different stages, made public the implementation progress and will receive public supervision. In addition, Russia, Australia and Italy also launched or planed to launch government institutional reform in recent years. Analysts pointed out that though countries are at different stages of reform, the reforms comply with the trend of the times to promote an efficient and clean government governed by law with an appropriate scale.

 

Since China’s reform and opening-up policy implemented, China has done large-scale government institutional reform in six occasions, and now is launching reform the seventh time. Looking back, we can easily find out that all institutional reforms are staged at crucial times of reform and opening up, such as dramatic changes of international strategic situation, adjustment of domestic industrial structure, establishment of market economy, China’s entry into the WTO, etc. It is necessary to understand that beyond the increase and reduction and merge and integration of institutional departments, going with tide of the times, respecting market rules and enhancing administrative efficiency is an important hallmark of China’s institutional reform, and promoting transformation of government functions, better servicing economic development and improving people’s livelihood is the principal line. The background of current China’s institutional reform is the profound changes of global and national situation, and the urgent need to adjust economic structure and transforming development mode. At present, the reform has entered the essential stage, to seize the development opportunity and effectively cope with crisis and challenges, China must improve its superstructure, promote the transformation of functions of government agencies, and realize the transformation from examination and approval-oriented government to service-oriented government. Demographic dividend will not last forever and resource dividend will finally end. However, the new dividend released by institutional reform and function transformation will help to reinforce China’s soft strength, competitiveness and attraction, promote economic transformation, and support the balanced and sustainable growth of China’s economy.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/22/2013

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JAPAN: New System to Foster General Practitioners

 

One of the centerpieces of the envisaged reform of the specialist certification system is the inclusion of general practitioners as a specialist category. General practitioners must have a wide range of expertise to deal with a broad spectrum of patients' needs. In the United States, physicians working as "hospitalists" have a similar role. For instance, they are responsible for examining patients who do not know which hospital department is best suited to treat them. When a patient has to undergo a complex medical procedure, a general practitioner refers him or her to an appropriate specialist.  Recently, Chiba University's Department of Diagnostic Medicine has been receiving many referrals from hospitals throughout the Kanto region. One 73-year-old patient said no one could diagnose the reason for his relentless cough and hiccups, even though he had visited three hospitals. He had consulted with experts in internal medicine and ear, nose and throat specialists.

 

The director of the diagnostics department, Masatomi Ikusaka, readily identified the man's illness as gastroesophageal reflux. The recommended treatment was revised from cold remedies and oriental medicine to anti-inflammatory drugs targeting his esophagus. Given the aging population, many of whom have multiple health problems, there is a growing need for trained general practitioners. The planned third-party organization for certifying medical specialists will consider creating training courses for such individuals through cooperation with relevant academic societies. Diagnostics chief Ikusaka said, "Considering the rapid graying of society, it would be insufficient to simply foster general practitioners from among current or future medical students. "Measures should be taken to encourage existing doctors to acquire diagnostics expertise."

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 03/15/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Rival Parties Reach Agreement on Gov't Restructuring Plan

 

Rival parties reached an agreement on the government restructuring plan, floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties said Sunday, in a breakthrough in the political standoff that has left the newly launched Park Geun-hye government in limbo since its inauguration last month. The agreement was made between floor leaders and deputy heads of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 03/17/2013

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Improve Constitutional Court Vacuum

 

Concerns are growing that the Constitutional Court will fall into a "vegetative" state without the court's chief in place. Song Doo-hwan, the acting chief of the court, is to retire on Friday following his six-year stint, adding fuel to the negative impact on the institution and the public that has also arisen from the nearly two-month absence of the court's chief. With Song's departure and the chief's vacancy, the nine-member court will be relegated to a seven-justice system, which could virtually make it unable to lay rulings on the constitutionality of laws. It needs more than six justices for the court to lay a ruling that a law is against the Constitution. Therefore, there could a situation in which the court would be unable to rule any laws are unconstitutional if just two of the seven justices were opposed to the unconstitutionality of them. In fact, no single ruling on the unconstitutionality of laws was given by the court last month.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 03/18/2013

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Public Servants to Exceed 1 Million

 

The number of public servants is expected to surpass 1 million this year as the government seeks to increase police and public security staff. The Ministry of Security and Public Administration announced a revised bill Saturday that raises the upper limit to the number of public servants hired by central administrative offices, by 200,000 to 293,982. The planned increase excludes those working at the National Assembly, the Board of Audit and Inspection, courts, the prosecution, schools and education institutions. “Raising the upper limit is part of new administration’s pledge to increase the number of public officers including police, firefighters and social workers,” an official from the MSPA said. As of last November 988,755 public officials were working at the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. Those at administrative authorities take up 62 percent of the total. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization of 34 advanced and emerging nations, 1.4-million workers serve at the general government and public corporations in Korea including central and local governments and non-profit organizations, taking up 5.7 percent of the economically active population. The percentage is around a third of the average of the OECD member nations.

From http://nwww.koreaherald.com/ 03/24/2013

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MYANMAR: Union Parliament Approves Formation of Committee for Constitution Amendment

 

Myanmar Union Parliament on Wednesday approved the formation of a committee and commissions comprising law experts and intellectuals to review the 2008 Constitution and make necessary amendment to it, parliament sources said. It was approved unanimously as a follow-up of a proposal approved by Myanmar's House of Representative (Lower House) last Friday. Parliamentarians are able to make suggestions on constitution to the committee and commissions before June 25, Union Parliament Speaker U Khin Aung Myint said. The proposal said the Constitution is no longer in line with the present era as reflected by the public. The 194-page 15-chapter Republic of the Union of Myanmar Constitution 2008, drafted in accordance with the detailed basic principles laid down by the National Convention, was promulgated in May 2008 after a nationwide referendum approved the draft constitution. Under the Constitution, a multi-party democracy general election was held in November 2010, in which the USDP won the majority of the parliamentary seats with its Party Chairman U Thein Sein being elected as president of the new civilian government, thus ending the decades-long military rule. After U Thein Sein took office in March 2011, the government amended the party registration law in January 2012, legalizing the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi who was freed from house arrest on Nov. 13, 2010. The NLD took part in the by-elections on April 1 in the year, winning 43 out of 45 open parliamentary seats, of which 37, including Suu Kyi, with the Lower House. The Constitution reserves a quarter of the parliamentary seats for non-elected or directly-nominated MPs from the military.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/20/2013

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MALAYSIA: Civil Servants Discuss Path to Open Government

 

FutureGov workshop focuses on the role of open standards in government cloud computing. Avoiding vendor lock-in, delivering user experiences that scale, and understanding the impact of cloud computing on government ICT were front of mind for over 30 Malaysian civil servants and industry experts this morning. The interactive sesson - ‘Towards Open Government’ - was split between discussions on standards and the future direction of cloud computing, and scenario planning based on a real world case study of how a government agency successfully moved to the cloud. The civil servants took turns to work through a series of scenarios based on an actual case study, in order to map out the benefits in a public sector context. These benefits included the opportunity to manage IT in rural areas, and to rapidly scale across 10,000 deployments. Focusing on providing services to users, rather than managing the infrastructure, was a key area of interest for the audience: “It is the ability to deliver against service levels that is a key consideration for us,” said one official from central government.

 

A few concerns were raised by workshop participants around the need to ensure that data was kept in a secure environment, and that data was completely deleted if an agency moved from one cloud provider to another. “Cloud can certainly be the biggest ‘lock in’ of your life - if the cloud provider does not give you an exit strategy, you are stuck there forever,” warned Sivaram Shunmugam, Lead Solutions Architect in ASEAN for Red Hat. ““The more open the platform, the more portable your applications and workloads are. Adopting cloud services based on open standards is key to avoiding these constraints.” “Cloud is all about services,” said Intel’s Bernard Cheah, Regional Solution Architect. “Providing a service to users at the flip of a switch is where we are headed. That means the challenge for ICT teams is to deliver agility while at the same time maintaining security, compliance and avoiding vendor lock-in.” Cheah explained that as the number of devices connected to the internet increases - expected to reach over 15 billion connected devices by 2015, and over 50 billion by 2020 - cloud computing would become central to the response of government ICT teams. As a result, a key question for government departments was whether their ICT hardware and software were based on open standards to deliver sustainable cloud services for users.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/07/2013

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Malaysia Appoints New Director General for Public Services

 

Starting 15 March 2013, Dato Mohammad Zabidi Zainal will be assuming his new role as Director General of the Public Services Department after more than two years of serving as the Director General of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU). During his time at MAMPU, he was responsible for spearheading the implementation of various modernisation initiatives which aims to improve the quality, efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of government services. “Mohamad Zabidi has the experience, competence and leadership skills to continue transformation efforts of the public service through efficient and innovative human resource management and development,” said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa. Mohamad Zabidi has been in the public service for more than 30 years. Within that span of time, he assumed several senior posts such as: Assistant Secretary of the Information Ministry, Selangor State Assistant Finance Officer, Deputy Secretary General of the Health Ministry and State Secretary of Perlis.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/11/2013

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SINGAPORE: Govt Has Zero Tolerance Policy Towards Corruption

 

SINGAPORE: Replying to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim on the risk of corruption in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Senior Minister of State for Defence Chan Chun Sing said MINDEF, like the rest of the government has a zero tolerance policy towards corruption. He said Singapore's defence procurement process is widely recognised to be of the highest standards. Ms Sylvia Lim had commented on Singapore getting a "D+" rating in a Transparency International (TI) report. "In political oversight, TI even singles out our defence supply committee as being provided with minimal information to guide decision-making. I think we should continue to review how much more information about MINDEF's spending can be shared with parliamentarians and the general public to reduce corruption risk. Australia and Germany managed to be graded "A", and the USA was graded "B" even though arguably, they have equally compelling security concerns about transparency. Can we be a bit more transparent?

 

"It is interesting that every now and then, international publications such as Jane's Defence reviews make revelations about specific purchases of military hardware by the SAF, and yet we seem to survive the disclosure. Has the government closed its mind on the issue? Or is it studying how the MINDEF can move towards more oversight to minimise corruption risk?" Mr Chan said: "Suppliers know that MINDEF has high expectations and that we drive a hard bargain when it comes to pricing. We have also been described as a "reference customer"- that means that when Singapore buys a platform, it sets a benchmark for cost effectiveness of that platform. We have studied the TI report in detail and will decide where more information can be released, so long as it does not compromise our security goals. We are confident that our current systems and processes to guard against corruption remain robust. Nevertheless, we will regularly view our processes to ensure that we remain corruption free."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/11/2013

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Govt to Continue Making Transport System More Elderly-Friendly

 

SINGAPORE: The government will continue its efforts to make the transport system barrier-free for the elderly. Lifts at six overhead pedestrian bridges will be completed by year's end and there are plans for 40 more, including bridges near the Boon Lay, Outram Park and Serangoon MRT stations.  Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced this in Parliament on Wednesday. Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal added that apart from barrier-free infrastructure, the little things matter too. He said: "LTA will smoothen out uneven parts of pavements where the elderly may run a risk of tripping. In Marine Parade, LTA has also piloted elderly-friendly bus stop seats with hand grips for the elderly to support themselves when getting up from their seat, as well as bus panels with larger fonts so the elderly can read them easily. These elderly-friendly improvements came about because residents, young and old, had proactively offered suggestions to us based on their daily travel experience."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/13/2013

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THAILAND: Launching Intelligent Transport System Project

 

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Thailand today launched a new project using intelligent technology to manage and improve traffic system. The project called “Smart Thailand via Intelligent Transport System Empowered by MOST’ was announced by MOST Minister Worawat Uea-apinyakul, and representatives from the Thai Traffic Police and the Department of Land Transport. Uea-apinyakul said that current technology helps facilitate better traffic and reduce cost. “Many intelligent transport systems (ITS) effectively solve traffic problems, reduce accidents, and help preserve the environment in several countries.” Under the ITS system, all cars will be installed with censor that would transmit real-time data of their locations to the control centre at Ministry of Transport for analytics process combining data from CCTV in Bangkok. The data will then be interpreted and sent to traffic police and to commuters in the form of reports via navigator devices in the cars or a mobile app, according to him. Commuters will be able to know the most congested area and which area they should avoid. This will help them plan their journey more efficiently, he added. According to him, the ministry is planning to adopt the ITS and collaborate works with related agencies. The installing of the system is expected to begin within six months starting in Bangkok, and the entire system will be fully implemented before 2015.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 02/22/2013

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VIETNAM: Central Internal Affairs appointments

 

Phan Dinh Trac and Nguyen Doan Khanh, both members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (PCC), were appointed to serve as deputy heads of the PCC Internal Affairs Commission yesterday along with Pham Anh Tuan, former chief of the secretariat of the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption. The PCC Internal Affairs Commission is a consultancy agency for the Central Committee that focuses on policies and strategies related to internal issues. It will also serve as a standing unit for the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption. Earlier, Party Secretary of Da Nang City Nguyen Ba Thanh was appointed as the Chief of the Central Internal Affairs Commission. To Huy Rua, Politburo member and Secretary of the Party Central Committee, praised the re-establishment of the commission and expressed hope that the new deputy heads would make full use of their capabilities and experiences to accomplish their tasks.

From http://vietnamnews.vn/ 03/06/2013

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INDIA: Andhra to Have National Institute of Electronics & IT

 

The Union Government has sanctioned a National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) for Andhra Pradesh. The Institute would be set up in Srikaulam in north coastal Andhra Pradesh. There are currently 23 NIELITs in different parts of the country but none in Andhra Pradesh. The institute would be set up at a cost of Rs 50 crore to train youth, particularly from rural areas, in information technology through short and long term courses, Union Minister of State for Information Technology and Communications Killi Kruparani said. A team of officials from the Department of Electronics and Information Technology will visit Srikakulam to identify a suitable location for the proposed institute. The institute would start functioning later this year out of rented premises, till the new infrastructure is put in place, a Ministry press release said.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 02/27/2013

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MALDIVES: Corruption Level Remains Unchanged ACC

 

“It has not deteriorated as such, but hasn’t improved either,” Luthfee said during a ceremony held on Sunday to release ACC’s annual report. “I can only see that we’ve remained at the same level. I believe that the government is not currently carrying out mega projects. That means the complaints filed with us would be less,” Luthfee explained. ACC Vice President Muavviz Rasheed noted that as no study had been done on corruption in Maldives, the extent of corruption in the country is unknown. He added that based on the cases filed with the ACC and the audit reports, it was difficult to say the level of corruption has improved. Muavviz also said the recommendations made to State institutions go unheeded, while sufficient effort is not put in to recover State funds. However, the ACC president noted that since president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik assumed office, the government has been cooperating “relatively” well.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 03/03/2013

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Amendment for Secret Votes Back to Committee

 

During the parliament session on Monday, deputy speaker MP Ahmed Nazim had announced the amendments as null and void following the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling made by a majority of six of the seven Judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday stated that the amendment to take secret votes in no-confidence motions is against the constitutionally guaranteed Parliamentary transparency mentioned in article 88. It also stated that it is against the contemporary Parliamentary rules of procedure and democratic values. The case to declare the Parliament’s decision to conduct no-confidence motions by secret ballot as unconstitutional was submitted to the Supreme Court by Gaafu Dhaalu Fiyoari, Aisaadhaaruge, Ahmed Sideeq and Male registry Ibrahim Hussain. The Supreme Court had earlier issued a temporary stay order to halt the taking of secret votes in no-confidence motions in Parliament until the court decides on the case. No-confidence motions have already been submitted to the Parliament against President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and the Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim ahead of the stay order.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 03/18/2013

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Maldives Establishes Passenger Information System

 

At a ceremony held in the Male’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on Sunday afternoon, the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) installed by the Indian government in Maldives was formally handed over by the Indian High Commissioner to Maldives D M Mulay to the Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali. The APIS will feed advance information on the passengers travelling to and from Maldives, to the Border Control System in the country, for use by the various enforcement agencies in the country like the Immigration, Customs, Police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and thus will be a big step forward in providing safe and efficient immigration service to the passengers travelling to the country. Speaking after receiving the APIS, the Controller thanked the people and government of India for the extensive assistance provided in the development of Maldives and underlined that the installation of the new system marks a “giant step” forward in the capability of the Maldivian Immigration to provide better immigration service to the travellers visiting the country. In his remarks, High Commissioner Mulay described the handing over of the system as yet another milestone in the bilateral development partnership that has grown from strength to strength over the years. Acting Transport Minister Mohamed Nazim, senior officials of the Department of Immigration, Aviation Security Command (MNDF), High Commission of India and the technical team from National Informatics Center (NIC), New Delhi which set up the system in Maldives were also present on the occasion.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 03/18/2013

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Maldives to Introduce a Police Reserve Force Soon

 

Special constabulary is provided the same privileges and authority of police officers under the police Act. A person employed elsewhere can also serve in the constabulary according to the Act. Commissioner said although the law allows for a special constabulary the initiative had not been taken so far. The directive of the president needed to create a reserve force had also been obtained, Riyaz added. “We will create a police reserve force sometime this year Insha Allah. Because of our concept to create a reserve force, it will create a lot more employment opportunities for the youth. With the cooperation of the business community we can really look to curb crime,” Commissioner said. However, the constabulary will have to follow the same code of conduct of regular police officers.

From http://www.haveeru.com.mv 03/192013

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NEPAL: Govt Decides to Retain Local Peace Committees

 

The government has decided to allow the local peace committees to operate until the end of current fiscal year. A meeting of the Council of Ministers on Monday decided to extend the tenure of the all-party committees. Forest minister Yadu Bansha Jha said the government decided to retain the committees as they have played positive role at the local level in the implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes of the government. Meanwhile, the cabinet has promoted Armed Police Force (APF) Deputy Inspector General Sushil Kumar Shrestha to Additional Inspector General. Likewise, the cabinet decided to provide forest land for Thapa Khola hydropower project in Mustang and Mailung Khola hydropower project in Rasuwa district. In another decision, the cabinet waived the visa fees for 12 Japanese nationals involved in the construction of Sindhu-Bardibas road in the recognition of their contribution.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 03/11/2013

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Govt Holds Interaction with Election Commission Officials

 

Election Council Chairman Khil Raj Regmi and other members of his Cabinet held an interaction with Election Commission officials at the Prime Minister's Office in Singha Durbar, on Sunday afternoon. During the meeting officials informed the government head about the commission's preparations to conduct elections, and urged Regmi to appoint commissioners to the constitutional body at the earliest, said Home Minister Madav Prasad Ghimire after the meeting. The minister informed that the government has directed EC officials to continue making necessary preparations for polls. He said Regmi assured the bureaucrats that commissioners would be appointed very soon.

From http://www.nepalnews.com 03/17/2013

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PAKISTAN: Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on 'Future of SAARC' Tomorrow

 

The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a public hearing on March,5 on topic of "Future of SAARC in the context of Pakistan-India Relations". Experts, scholars and other stakeholders and representatives of the civil society have been invited to give their view point on Pak-India ties in light of the changing regional relations. The public hearing will take place at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary services (PIPS), auditorium here. Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator, Haji Muhammad Adeel will preside over the meeting. Besides, war on terror and regional security situation,trade, economy and visa liberalization and resolution of disputes for the betterment of people will also be discussed.

From http://www.brecorder.com 03/05/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: President Receives Deputy Director of IMF’s Department

 

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today received Juha Kahkonen, deputy director of the International Monetary Fund`s (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Department. Kahkonen said the IMF was interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan. He noted that Azerbaijan was one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world for economic growth. Kahkonen underlined the importance of development of non-oil sector in Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev said lots of work had been done in Azerbaijan to decrease the dependence of economy on oil-gas sector. The President noted non-oil sector grew by 10 percent last year describing this as a result of the implementation of successful programs in ICT, industry, agriculture and other spheres. The sides also exchanged views on prospects for cooperation between Azerbaijan and IMF.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/07/2013

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Azerbaijani Government Is on a Good Path: OSCE Office Head

 

AzerNews has interviewed the Head of the OSCE Office in Baku, Ambassador Koray Targay over the current activity and future projects of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Q: Some 20 years have passed since the establishment of relations between the OSCE and Azerbaijan. What were the key areas of the cooperation in this period?

A: Well, exactly 21 years have passed since the beginning of cooperation between OSCE and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Of course, every participating State of OSCE undertakes some obligations concerning the OSCE requirements, which means the three dimensions - politico-military, economic-environmental and human. There are certain standards of the OSCE laid down in Vienna by the Permanent Council. So, Azerbaijan like other participating countries has undertaken to meet these requirements and these obligations, but not immediately and not overnight, in a timeframe, because Azerbaijan is a transitional country and for 70 years it was ruled by different regimes. Transition from the former regimes into the OSCE standards definitely takes time and the OSCE Office in Baku aims to assist and to stand by the Azerbaijani government in its meeting these obligations and requirements, as well as international standards as soon as possible. So, our job and our mandate is to assist Azerbaijan in its endeavors towards the faster democratization process, towards higher level of rule of law within the country, towards protection of human rights that is at a higher degree, of course. All these elements, all these issues have to be upgraded, that is normal in every country. So, our program and our mandate has been to assist the government in every aspect, and also in economic development and environmental issues.

 

Q: Starting this year you have already implemented two projects in Baku, could you describe these projects and evaluate their effectiveness?

A: Let me start with the project on forced labor and human trafficking. Azerbaijan is a transit country and it is an economically prospering country at the same time. It draws a lot of attention from various parts of the regions, close and far, for both illegal labor and human trafficking, because these people as well as the merchants are interested in developing Azerbaijan for their illegal trafficking. The Government's policy is to combat illegal human trafficking, whilst no country can cope with this plague alone. Strong international cooperation is necessary. The Azerbaijani government is very cooperative in this field to act with its neighbors and with the world community to combat illegal human trafficking. It is not only illegal human trafficking, but also drugs and arms trafficking. This is a large sector. We indeed organized large-scale studies and seminars in this field but this is not the beginning and also is not the end, as it is an ongoing project. We have several projects, for instance, on the rights of suspects and accused persons. A wonderful piece of legislation was adopted by the Milli Majlis (the parliament) recently, a month ago. We are happy to have been awarded by the national assembly, Milli Mejlis, a privilege to take part in the drafting process at the relevant committee of the parliament. We integrated the sense of responsibility and tried to provide our contributions and as a result a very modern and good piece of legislation came out of the parliament. Now we are following up the issue for training of personnel, because each law, whatever modern, advanced and detailed it is, needs experts and technicians for its implementation. We are cooperating with the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs for training of personnel. This law should be implemented without any difficulty. It is also an ongoing project. We have several projects like this, for instance, the rights of juveniles and the right of inmates in the prisons. We are very much satisfied with the cooperation with Azerbaijani ministries, because without their full cooperation we cannot do anything. We are always in consultations to make sure that our efforts and our training go in the right direction and the best of benefit should be derived by the Azerbaijani authorities. For this purpose, we bring foreign experts from such countries which have the best experience and the best practice in these fields, and utilize their services for the trainings in the country. We also organize study trips to the other OSCE countries, which have the best practices in relevant fields. We do that in every field, in the police training field, and in prison personnel training.

 

Q: Could you describe the projects the OSCE will be implementing in Azerbaijan this year? What are their major targets?

A: This year the most popular projects will be related to elections in the light of upcoming presidential elections. We have prepared projects, worth about 115,000 euros, in cooperation with the presidential administration and the Central Election Commission. We will organize trainings in Baku, but mostly in the regions. Our target will be mostly young Azerbaijani people, who will cast their votes for the first time in their life. If we give training as good as we can to the young generation and try to improve the election process -- starting from the registration phase up to counting the ballots, we will be happy to contribute to fair and decent elections in the country. Of course, in every country there are some violations in elections -- that happens everywhere. Our target is to reduce this kind of deficiencies to the minimum in Azerbaijan. So, the world community would appreciate the election process in Azerbaijan and would not have much ground for criticism, which is good for the reputation of the country. And also for the ownership of the democratic principles by the people of Azerbaijan. The legal infrastructure is good already and the presidential declarations for the treatment of fraud applications are very precise. So it comes down to the implementation of this infrastructure, which needs training. So, training and training, that's all that is needed. And it's a high level of education and also literacy in Azerbaijan, we don't have much difficulty in sharing our expertise and our opinions with the people. Especially people in the regions are very much interested in the progress for ownership of democratic rights and principles and also for active participation in the domestic political life. These are the main projects this year. On the other hand, we will continue to cooperate with the Ministry of Interior for police training and that is an ongoing project; for example, the activities of the police forces at public rallies -- both authorized and unauthorized public assemblies. However, this is only one asset, we also train journalists to observe and to monitor public assemblies and to properly reflect it to the public.

 

For the police forces it is also important to know how to handle unauthorized assemblies, which happen everywhere in the world, it is a fact of life. To our satisfaction, we see good results at the police forces and in rapid deployment forces -- they are very successful. We are training again the trainers and have multiple effects. As to further important projects in the rule of law, we cooperate with the Ministry of Justice in improving the quality of the justice service. The Justice Ministry is very active in establishing new court houses in the regions. Now the Justice Ministry is spreading out these services to regions with a view to make life easier for the accused people, for the convicts, and also for their families, because at the end of the day there are accused people -- either acquitted or convicted to jail terms and the idea is to bring them back to the society in a healthy way to give them a better future. It's better to bring the legal services, the law services to the countryside and the ministry is doing a good job for it. The quality provided by the country at the detention centers at the police stations mostly, and throughout the country, is increasing very fast. There is a good understanding on the side of the government to increase the quality of human rights in the detention centers, in prisons, and also the quality of legal services provided at the courts. This is an unfortunate heritage from the old system that the number of judges is not sufficient and the number of defense lawyers is not sufficient, the number of prosecutors is not sufficient; so we must cooperate to increase the quality and the quantity of these services because the demand is exceeding very fast. According to the Justice Ministry, people applying to courts have increased in number by six times over the last ten years, which is a good sign, because it means that people's trust in legal services provided by the state and the ownership of their rights is increasing, but it also burdens the authorities how to provide those services as fast as they can.

 

It is a difficult job but we will succeed together with the authorities. We are trying to do our best and the government is trying even better, more than the best indeed, within the range of the possibilities of course, as it takes time and efforts to change the whole system from the previous structure to a modern new one. In terms of economy and environment we also have projects that are the so-called second dimension of the OSCE. We have important projects how to take preventive measures against the oil spills danger in the Caspian Sea. It is not the entire possibility of the government to take all the measures because the industry and the insurance companies, all the stakeholders, should take part in such a widespread project. Another one is cooperation with neighboring countries, namely Georgia, in the use of the Kura River for the use of the waters of the Kura River. Because the river's water is very important for Georgia and also more important as it crosses a large segment in Azerbaijan, to keep it clean and to present to the use of Azerbaijani people. We have similar work on that also in wildfires. The region is beautiful, a gift of God, the mountains, the forest, but in case of a wildfire close cooperation is required. So, we also have such kind of projects in environment. Again, for instance, there are very good moves in terms of an "electronic state" to reduce the bureaucracy and possible corruption. The President has issued the legislations and we try to cooperate with the government to assist and to stand by in the use of the best practices of other OSCE countries and we obtained a good success in it. The ASAN service center, which has been established recently in Baku, is a good example of this. It is really exemplary work, which means that if really given attention, support to this nation can create miracles. Indeed, I heard from my colleagues that the recently established center works perfectly. So, the government intends to expand the electronic services, so we try to do our best to stand by and to provide cooperation to the government in its efforts.

 

Q: How can you evaluate the already implemented projects?

A: After completion of each and every project we make self-evaluation and also we try to formulate the lessons learned and we want to upgrade our studies and we do that most of the times with Azerbaijani authorities so that the next phases of the project or new projects should be even more useful and successful than the previous ones. So, this is an ongoing process and so far we did not have any serous failures and we did not have any serious problems and, of course, we are thankful to the local authorities not only in Baku but also in the regions. The governors and the local authorities are extremely helpful to us. We have four legal resources and two legal advice centers in Ganja, Sheki, Mingachevir, Sumgayit, Lankaran, and Baku. The legal resource centers work hand in hand with the local authorities and provide free legal service to any Azerbaijani citizen who wants assistance from us. Legal advice centers are designed to help the entrepreneurs to establish their business, again in line with the government policies and the presidential directions to establish a strong middle class in this country, to promote the entrepreneurship. We provide advice to them also, and we are very happy with the results. We receive thousands of applications and try to satisfy all of them.

 

Q: Are there any spheres in Azerbaijan, which, in your opinion, still need reform?

A: In general, this is not a compliment, but the truth is that the government is on a good path in every aspect. So, in terms of democratization, in terms of increasing the effect of the rule of law, the performance, and in combating corruption, combating international or transnational crime like human trade, the government policies are good, the legislation passed by the Milli Mejlis (the Parliament) is also good. But we must be careful and must be patient, because this development does not give results and happen overnight. That is the reason the OSCE office in Baku was established and is working. The target is to shorten the transition period of this country, because the country has huge economic potential and strategic, geographic and political location and does not have the luxury to spend decades and decades to increase these standards to the desired level. The country, in general, must run fast, so we are here to have the authorities to assist in this struggle to pass development in every field. Indeed, if we compare the 1990s and the present situation of the country, in every field we will see enormous development. This should be borne in mind. Is it sufficient? Not yet, but bear in mind that the Western standards which we are aspiring to are established in hundreds of years. 300 years is the minimum and this country does not have this luxury. It must obtain all these standards in stability and peace in a much shorter time. The road is open, the path is good, the direction is firm, and everything is going in the right order, in the right direction, and we need to have more patience.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 03/15/2013

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KYRGYZSTAN: Appoints Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers

 

President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev signed decrees appointing Shamil Atakhanov as Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgystan, Abdulda Suranchiev as Interior Minister and Alisbek Alymkulov as Minister of Labour, Migration and Youth. Decrees will be published on the president's website on Saturday, KyTAG reported. Decrees were signed by the Head of State on Saturday. It should be recalled that appointments were made on the government's recommendations.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/02/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Leader Receives High-Ranking Officials

 

The president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has met with the first deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Regional Development Bakhytzhan Sagintayev in order to discuss implementation of tasks defined at the Kazakhstan-2050 strategy and the enlarged meeting of the government.

 

Bakhytzhan SAGINTAYEV, FIRST DEPUTY KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER, MINISTER OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT:

- I have reported to the head of state about administrative procedures on the establishment of the Ministry of Regional Development. To date all structural issues have been tackled and the Ministry has started implementation of its duties. Additionally, I have reported about tasks given to the ministry, including the development of entrepreneurship and implementation of the Business Road Map-2020 programme.

 

The president noted that the newly created ministry needs to address a number of complex tasks, including control under activity of facilities commissioned as part of the accelerated industrial and innovative development programme and further bringing them at full capacity.

 

Bakhytzhan SAGINTAYEV, FIRST DEPUTY KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER, MINISTER OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT:

- One of the most topical issues is inability to use funds allocated last year. We have already organized a number of meetings and warned all regional governors. In case the situation does not change according to the results of the first six months, funds will be sent to other regions of the country.

 

 Nursultan NAZARBAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN:

- The government allocates huge funds for healthcare and education and it is necessary to control proper use of allocated money. On the threshold of spring we are approaching the problem of floods and we should be prepared. If we finish the first quarter with good results, it will be possible to expect success according to the results of the year.

 

The president also met with the Zhambyl region governor, Kanat Bozumbayev. The head of the region reported Nursultan Nazarbayev about the results of the socio-economic development of the region for 2012 and preliminary results of the recent two months. Kanat Bozumbayev said that the construction area has increased by 67% and the investments of the region into the economy grew by 32%. In general, the pace of development inspires optimism. According to the results of the meeting Nursultan Nazarbayev gave the region governor a number of tasks. Moreover, the president accepted the report on the results of the restoration works after the snowstorm happened on January 12.

 

 Kanat BOZUMBAYEV, ZHAMBYL REGION GOVERNOR:

- To date we have restored almost all 4,700 facilities. In general, the region restored roofs of blocks of flats and single-family detached homes, over 1,000 transmission pylons and 4,770 social, cultural and residential facilities. In such a manner, today we have almost restored all damaged facilities of the region and are going to work together with the government on tackling current tasks.

 

At the meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister of France Laurent Fabius the president Nursultan Nazarbayev discussed prospects of Kazakhstan-French partnership. Astana and Paris are linked by longstanding close contacts. The turnover between the two countries is growing, investments are increasing and new joint projects are appearing. In the near future the president of France Francois Holland will visit Kazakhstan on the invitation of Nursultan Nazarbayev. There is no doubt that this meeting will become another boost in the development of the partnership between the two countries.

 

 Nursultan NAZARBAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN:

- Everybody knows that relations between Kazakhstan and France are developing fast. France is the largest investor of the European Union and we are currently implementing 25 projects under the support of France. There are huge prospects. There is a commission of two presidents and I would like these meetings to continue.

 

 Laurent FABIUS, FRENCH MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

- I would like to note that this visit is quote positive and prospective. We have discussed our economic relations. French enterprises are well-represented in Kazakhstan. We have additionally talked about mutually beneficial investments as well as the organization of the Expo 2017 International exhibition in Astana.

From http://www.caspionet.kz/ 03/02/2013

 

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New Requirements for Government Officials

 

A new idea concerning the preparation of civil servants is being developed in Kazakhstan. The Chairman of the Agency for the Civil Service, Alikhan Baimenov, announced that this will be adopted this summer. According to him, the document will feature tighter regulations for civil servants. They must show their analytical and managerial abilities, as well as their knowledge of law, and adhere to ethics while in office.

 

Alikhan BAIMENOV, CHAIRMAN, KAZAKH AGENCY FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE:

- 60 universities are unable to provide the requisite high quality training to civil service bachelors. Therefore I think things will be optimised. It seems to me that we need to work out standards in these areas together with the Ministry of Education and Science.

From http://www.caspionet.kz/ 03/04/2013

 

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Deputy Chairmen Appointed to Kazakh National Security Committee

 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed two new deputy chairmen to the National Security Committee, the Committee reported on Thursday. Major General Nurgali Bilisbekov and Colonel Samat Abish were appointed to these posts. "On March 7 National Security Committee's Chairman Nurtai Abykayev introduced his new Deputies to the Committee's staff," the Committee said. Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, Major General User Mizanbaev was appointed as the head of the Kostanai region's Department of National Security Committee.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/07/2013

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TURKMENISTAN: Begins Nominating Candidates to Local Self-Governing Bodies

 

Turkmenistan has begun nominating candidates to local self-government bodies - People's Councils and Gengeshi instead of representatives who have left these bodies, the country's Central Election Commission said on Thursday. Special elections are scheduled for April 14. In total it is planned to elect 69 Gengeshi members and 59 members of regional, district and town People's Councils. Some 128 electoral districts have been created for the election of gengeshi members in cities, towns, gengeshliks, and members of the above-mentioned people's councils. Nine electoral districts were created in the Akhal region, 20 in the Balkan, 22 in Dashoguz and Lebap each, 50 in Mary and five in Ashgabat. Some 278 polling stations were created in districts, district election commissions of the cities were formed in the districts, towns and gengeshliks. Campaigning will be launched following completion of candidate registration. "All candidates are given equal rights and opportunities in order to provide the electorate their proposals relating to the implementation of large-scale development programs," the CEC report said.

From http://en.trend.az/ 02/28/2013

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AUSTRALIA: City Police Connect with Citizens Online

 

The City of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, launched myPolice Bundaberg, an online blog developed and maintained by police officers. The blog, launched by Jack Dempsey, Minister for Police and Community Safety of Queensland, aims to give the police a new channel of connecting with citizens, and to enhance interaction between the police and the public. The police department will regularly post information such as crime prevention tips on the blog. “Through the blog, police officers are able to share information about personal safety, keeping property securing and also show comfit images or stills from CCTV to a wider audience”, said Dempsey. Bundaberg Police District officer Superintendent Rowan Bond said the launch of the blog was an opportunity for police to engage with the community at a local and digital level. “myPolice Bundaberg will give local police a stronger online presence, allowing them to strengthen their bonds with the community and engage with them on a new level”, he stated. Bond also mentioned that the blog could be used to give residents timely information about situations such as evacuation notices, road closures or weather conditions in Bundaberg. Residents can submit their email addresses to receive notifications when the blog is updated and even access information about police recruitment in Queensland. Several posts have already been uploaded on the blog. Some posts include pictures of suspects and appeal to the public to contact the police if they have any fresh information about them.

From http://www.futuregov.asia 03/11/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: Reforms' Emphasis Too Heavy on Economic Gain

 

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says the Government's resource management reforms emphasised economic gain too heavily, at the expense of environmental values. Commissioner Jan Wright said the Resource Management Act's (RMA) fundamental purpose was to make sure environmental effects were taken into consideration when decisions were made about the use of resources. "It is not, and should not become, an economic development act." The amendments to the act appeared to suggest the environment was the enemy of the economy, despite the fact that a large part of the economy was built on New Zealand's green credentials, she said. "Employment is quite rightly an issue of great concern for the Government. But jobs are created and lost all the time for host of reasons. Just because jobs are not created in one area does not mean they will not be created in another area. Forgoing our environment for short-term growth may well curtail more sustainable jobs further down the line." The proposed RMA changes, released in a discussion paper yesterday, aimed to streamline the planning process and reduce the costs and delays associated with consents under the current system. The governing principles of the act, now 22-years-old, would also be updated to reflect "contemporary" New Zealand values.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/01/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: New Tax Review Board Set Up

 

THE national government has established a tax review committee to review all tax regimes in the country. Treasurer Don Polye, replying to questions from Northern Governor Gary Juffa, told parliament yesterday that all tax regimes would be reviewed and submitted to parliament for approval. Juffa said there was a need for a review because current tax laws were favouring the multinational companies operating in the country. He said many of these companies had tax havens while they continued to reap the resources of the country. “There is an urgent need to review the tax regime as it has not considered the ordinary people of PNG who face the realities of being heavily taxed,” Juffa said. He said small businesses owned by PNG nationals should be given tax exemptions but that had never been done and small income earners had all been hard hit by stiff government taxes. Public servants’ final entitlements should be tax exempted to compensate them for their service to the nation, he added.

From http://www.thenational.com.pg  03/21/2013

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Clerk of Parliament Takes RAMSI Award for Women

 

Clerk of the Solomon Islands parliament Taeasi Sanga has been honoured for services to the country during a life-long career in the national parliament. In a Women's Breakfast event held at the Mendana Hotel in Honiara this morning,RAMSI Special Coordinator Nicholas Coppel noted this was the 5th and final year of the RAMSI breakfast. Sanga joins inaugural 2009 winner Beverley Komasi, founder of the Mercy School in Burns Creek, Inspector Florence Taro of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in 2010, youth recipient and SIWIBA founding member Maylin Sese in 2011, and long serving senior Public servant Ruth Liloqula in 2012. Introducing the 2013 recipient in the four years since RAMSI launched the Special coordinators Award for Women, he acknowledged Sanga's rise from her humble beginnings and her extensive travel across PNG as the child of missionary parents who were based there. She was appointed the first personal secretary to the country's first Prime Minister, Sir Peter Kenilorea, in 1978 and joined the staff of the national parliament in 1980 as the Hansard Officer a few years later.

 

"It is here in the house on the hill, that with the exception of a single decade, she has remained, daily juggling with the utmost patience and grace the challenges of serving the country's supreme law-making body adn her family responsibilities," said Coppel.   After being widowed in 2007, the Clerk of Parliament continued to provide, "an example not only of efficient administration but also of tenacity and dedication, persevering through the tension when funding had all but dried up and Parliament became a target for militant activity." "She has in the past decade also proved to be a quiet but determined agent for change, keen to strengthen and develop the institution she has served," Coppel noted of Sanga’s lifelong professional service to Parliament serving "humbly and as a true servant of the people." "I am speechless" said Sanga moments after receiving the award. She told an audience of some 200 invited guests that she had initially refused the award and told RAMSI to "find someone worthy" when they contacted her two days before the breakfast.

 

She dedicated her award to her Parliamentary colleagues and staff involved in the Parliamentary strengthening project since 2008, and said it would mean much to her young staffers who work with enthusiasm with natonal leaders of the country, "to make sure parliament plays its constitutional duties and effectively serves the people of the Solomon Islands." In sharing her award with her staff at parliament, the Clerk of the House ended her speech with an emotional acknowledgement of her faith, noting that like many listening, "we've gone through valleys, some have been deep, climbed mountains, some so high you wondered if you will get to the top -- and through all this, God has been faithful." she then shared a reading of Psalm 23 before the breakfast adjourned and later heard from keynote speaker, Dr Patricia Rodie, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the new Solomon Islands National University.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 03/08/2013

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UNDP Spearheads Reform Ahead of Solomons Election

 

The UN Development Programme is in Solomon Islands to help reform their electoral system ahead of the 2014 general election. The project will be co-funded by the Australian government's overseas assistance arm, AusAid, the European Union, and the UNDP. UNDP Resident Pacific representative, Knut Ostby, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program a credible democratic set-up is necessary in order for the Solomons to continue peaceful development. Mr Ostby says a combination of strengthening electoral processes - such as fixing the electoral roll - and civic education, will help strengthen the system to continue successfully into the future. "For an election to be credible and for the process to go well it's not enough that officials and systems are in place," he said. "The people themselves need to be full participants. "And they can only do that if they have full knowledge of what the process is about." He says a major focus of the project will be to improve the capacity of the Solomon Islands Election Commission to manage elections. The project will run from now until a year after the 2014 poll.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 03/11/2013

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Country-Specific Climate Vulnerability Data Now Online

 

Data from a climate vulnerability monitor for 184 nations are now available via an interactive online portal, making them more accessible to researchers, academics and policymakers worldwide. The data are based on the Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, first released at the UN climate conference (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, and updated in September 2012. The revised data are now available through a searchable Online Data Portal — launched last month (14 February) — which aims to serve as a reference for less developed countries to help them devise strategies for climate change adaptation. The monitor is co-published by DARA, a non-profit research organisation based in Spain, and its Climate Vulnerable Forum, a network of countries that are heavily affected by climate change. "The revised monitor has a new section of analysis labelled 'carbon', focusing on the socio-economic ramifications of pursuing carbon-intensive and climate unsafe activities," Matthew McKinnon, editor of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, tells SciDev.Net. It draws on peer-reviewed scientific literature and datasets released by the UN, World Bank and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

 

But it adds value to the existing reports by extracting climate change data individually for 184 countries from published reports, such as IPCC assessment reports, its designers say. "Our reports have a specific challenge and focus — to assess the impact of the climate change challenge in socio-economic terms with estimates of impact and vulnerability for 184 countries for 2010 and 2030," says McKinnon. "The IPCC has a much broader focus that goes further into the future." Country-wise analyses for economic costs and mortality resulting from climate change in 2010 and 2030 are available on the data portal. "The data portal will now provide the public, and all interested parties, with direct access to the full set of statistical information that was published in the Monitor last September," McKinnon explains. "The portal allows download, sorting and interactive screen views of the entire Monitor's data, including world maps and also two-page country profiles." Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and a member of the monitor's advisory panel, tells SciDev.Net: "We hope that with the online version, more people will access and use the Monitor at a national level. So far, it's been primarily used to inform policy and debate at the global level."

From http://www.scidev.net 03/08/2013

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Data Enthusiasts Convene at the Bank to Tackle Poverty and Anti-Corruption

 

Big data was the buzzword over the weekend at the World Bank. More than 150 topic experts, data scientists, civic “hackers,” civil society groups and development practitioners gathered for the DC Big Data Exploration event to analyze data and tackle questions related to eliminating poverty and rooting out corruption and fraud on development projects. The Bank’s foray into big data comes as no surprise to those familiar with its commitment to transparency and accountability. “The maturity and growth of the Bank’s open data program has been phenomenal,” said Chuck McDonough, the Bank’s Vice President and Controller, “Expanding our awareness to how big data can help us combine our data with that of others to become constructive knowledge is fundamental to becoming a true development solutions bank.” The data dive was a collaborative effort between the World Bank and external partners UNDP, UNDB, UN Global Pulse, and Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI). Participants worked on about eight projects that had been predetermined by the World Bank’s Open Finances team and DataKind, a nonprofit organization that partners with civil society organizations on the intersection between data and development.

 

“The model for greater collaboration across different organizations is imperative,” said Patrick Meier, Director of Social Innovation, QCRI. “That doesn’t mean that collaboration is easy to do. It’s hard to collaborate across organizations. It’s an iterative process, and we’re learning by doing, which is what we have to do. We don’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting.” With just 24 hours to evaluate the data, each team was tasked with posing new questions rather than trying to come up with concrete answers or solutions. Combining the use of visualizations, graphs, and new datasets based on World Bank and external data, teams comprised of data scientists, subject matter experts, and just curious participants that did not fall in either camp formed naturally to collaborate on and evaluate poverty measurement and anti-corruption projects. On Sunday morning, each team presented their findings to all in attendance. "One of the major challenges to ending global poverty is reducing corruption risks," said Stephen Zimmermann, Director of Operations at the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency. "This is a daunting task but the work this weekend identified a huge number of innovative possibilities to significantly expand how we can use data to tackle corruption. I’m so excited by the opportunities lying ahead of us.”

 

Unearthing data sources on food prices and consumption of bananas and rice in Kenya for faster and easier estimates of inflation was one of the projects. Another included analysis, collection, and response rate of poverty data from mobile devices vis-à-vis face-to-face interviews. A reverse Google tool for anti-corruption that tells you what to look for based on what you have was also featured. Throughout the event, an anti-hassle czar roamed the room as part therapist, part journalist, logging the frustrations about missing data from each participant, thus setting a framework for the development of future data sets for analysis. “It’s important to recognize this is a long process and one of the things we’re hearing a lot about is the associations, correlations and relationships among different types of data,” said Peter F. Lanjouw, Research Manager of the Poverty Group in the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group. “It’s deeply important that we not only understand the correlation but also the causal links between different types of data that we’re looking at.” There is little doubt inside or outside of the World Bank or from civil society organizations of big data’s potential and that it is becoming more mainstream. Apart from trying to forge stronger collaborative efforts, the challenge of sustaining and building momentum from the weekend data dives is top of mind. “What really needs to happen after these weekend events is continuity of those collaborative efforts,” said Jake Porway, Executive Director of DataKind. “We need to make sure the people who have the ability to work with data can connect with the those who actually know the problems so that we’re not just hacking on open data for fun in our free time. We want this to be the beginning of something much, much greater than this.”

From http://www.worldbank.org 03/18/2013

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OECD Releases First Comprehensive Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-Being

 

The OECD has taken a major step forward in measuring how we feel about our lives. Newly released Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being establish the first comprehensive framework for internationally comparable and intellectually robust data on this topic. These Guidelines provide advice on the collection and use of measures of subjective well-being, and will allow statisticians and researchers to better measure how individuals evaluate and experience their lives. The Guidelines, developed under the OECD’s Better Life Initiative, stem from the growing interest in looking beyond traditional ways of measuring economic performance to provide a broader picture of social progress.  The need for national statistics agencies to collect and publish measures of subjective well-being was a key recommendation of the 2009 Report of the Stiglitz – Sen –Fitoussi Commission on the Measurement of Economic  Performance and Social Progress, established by the French Government. For Martine Durand, the OECD’s Chief Statistician, measures of subjective well-being have the potential to play an important role to inform decision making. “Subjective well-being data can provide an important complement to other indicators already used for monitoring and benchmarking counties performance, for guiding people’s choices, and for designing and delivering policies.”

 

But she insisted that subjective well-being can only tell part of the story. “To provide a fuller picture, subjective well-being data must be examined alongside information on more objective aspects of life,” she added. The Your Better Life Index offers an example of the wider picture. It aims to measure how societies are faring in a number of areas – from jobs, health and housing through to civic engagement and subjective well-being – and allows citizens to determine which of these are most important to their own well-being. The definition of subjective well-being used in the Guidelines extends beyond the idea of ‘happiness’ to cover three elements: Life evaluation - reflective assessment on a person’s life or some specific aspect of it. Affect – a person’s feelings or emotional states, typically measured with reference to shorter time periods. Eudemonia – a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or good psychological functioning. The Guidelines are intended to be used as a resource for data producers developing their own surveys, but also include sections that will be more relevant to potential users of subjective well-being data such as policy analysts and economists. The guidelines discuss the reliability and validity of subjective well-being measurement as well as methodological issues such as the nature of surveys used and the design, order and wording of questions. Recommendations are provided on reporting and analysing the data collected and ways of mitigating the effect of various sources of bias. Examples of surveys and prototype questions are also included.

From http://www.oecd.org 03/20/2013

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APEC-ASEAN Laying Foundation for Green Building Development

 

Asia Pacific economies are pursuing greater cooperation on the development of smarter, more consistent approaches for building design and construction to improve energy efficiency and facilitate the trade of associated products in the region. A three-day joint APEC-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) workshop which concluded on Thursday in Lima helped to lay the groundwork. It brought together officials and stakeholders to share experiences and identify best practices on the development, adoption and implementation of green building codes. “Peru is currently in the midst of implementing sustainable building policies, a process that has started by reviewing and compiling all related regulation on the matter,” said René Cornejo, Peru’s Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation. “The experiences of other Asia-Pacific economies will serve as valuable lessons and shall be taken into account in the development of studies and green building regulation to be implemented in our economy, especially in social housing promoted by the public building sector, Cornejo added.” Buildings consume 40 percent of global energy, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Residential and commercial buildings in particular account for 60 percent of all electricity use. The workshop, supported, in part, by the APEC Technical Assistance and Training Facility and the Peru government, is a component of a multi-year APEC project to boost the capacity of member economies to enhance the performance and energy efficiency of the region’s building sector.

 

“Resilient growth in the Asia-Pacific and the expansion of urban areas globally are prompting the region’s economies to share information on best practices in code development and provide tools and insights that can inform policy decision-making,” said Teungku Hanafiah, Chair of the APEC Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance. “The goal is to help one another build in more economically and environmentally sustainable ways, and work toward aligning policies in the Asia-Pacific to ensure access to the materials needed to do so.” Focus includes standards and conformity assessment practices that will promote the free flow of trade in certain building products, whose use can reduce greenhouse emissions and improve resource management. Delegates noted that the evolving standards and conformance landscape for green building increases the complexity of their task, but that their experience-sharing and dialogue in this evolving area is quite constructive. The timing is also consistent with some discussions in the building community about what makes a code “green” and possible measurement approaches. APEC economies will address green building standardization in more depth when they meet in Medan, Indonesia in June 2013. This will segue into work on specific building products, and testing and rating best practices that can be applied across the region to facilitate trade.

From http://www.apec.org/ 03/07/2013

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3 in 4 Asia-Pacific Nations Facing Water Security Threat – Study

 

More than 75% of the countries in Asia and the Pacific are experiencing a serious lack of water security, with many of them facing an imminent water crisis unless immediate steps are taken to improve management of water resources, says a new study prepared jointly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF). “While the Asia-Pacific region has become an economic powerhouse, it is alarming that no developing country in the region can be considered ‘water-secure’,” said Bindu Lohani, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “Countries must urgently improve water governance through inspired leadership and creative policymaking.” Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 provides the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of water security on a country by country basis in the region. It examines all dimensions of water security from the household level to water-related disasters, and uses indicators and a scaling system to rank the progress of each of the 49 countries under assessment.

 

Video: Asian Water Development Outlook 2013The study found that 37 developing countries in the region are either suffering from low levels of water security or have barely begun to engage in the essential task of improving water security. Twelve countries are shown to have established the infrastructure and management systems for water security, while no country in the region was found to have reached the highest model level of water security. South Asia and parts of Central and West Asia are faring the worst, with rivers under immense strain, while many Pacific Islands suffer from a lack of access to safe piped water and decent sanitation and are highly vulnerable to increasingly severe natural disasters. By contrast East Asia, which has the highest frequency of hazards in the region, is relatively better off due to higher levels of investment in disaster defenses, but urban water security remains poor in many cities and towns. The study highlights two stark realities ― sharply rising inequality in access to water and sanitation, and the increasingly precarious state of rivers. It presents options for measures that can be adopted to improve water security to mitigate the growing pressure from booming populations, urbanization, pollution, over-extraction of groundwater, climate change and other factors.

 

“Water supports health and livelihoods, grows our food, powers our industry, and cools our generating plants, and these different uses can no longer be seen in isolation from each other,” said Ravi Narayanan, Vice-Chair of the APWF Governing Council. “Unless these competing needs are balanced, water security will remain elusive, undermining development gains and the quality of life for billions of people in the region, especially the poor.” Current levels of investment, coupled with outdated policies and institutions, have failed to deliver water security. The study highlights the importance of a more productive use of water, including greater recycling of ‘used water’. Corporatizing water utilities to improve their efficiency; increasing sanitation investment; encouraging more productive water use by food and energy producers; imposing more regulations on groundwater use; upgrading irrigation services; strengthening management of river basins; mobilizing more private sector investment to clean up rivers; and improving disaster risk management; are all essential for a more secure water future.

From http://www.adb.org/ 03/13/2013

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Asia-Pacific Facing Water Crisis: ADB

 

Nearly two thirds of people in the Asia-Pacific region have no clean, piped water at home despite the region's strong economic growth, according to a major report released on Wednesday. Water security is a major concern for most countries in the region, but the problem is poor management and a lack of investment in infrastructure rather than short supplies, said the report released by the Asian Development Bank. “What is lacking in Asia is good water governance," Ranesh Vaidya, a water specialist from Nepal who helped prepare the report, told journalists at its launch at the ADB headquarters in Manila. “There is a definite link between good governance and good water.” Studies for the Asian Water Development Outlook report, prepared by the ADB and other research institutes, found that 37 out of 49 countries in the region had low levels of water security. The percentage of Asia's population with access to proper toilets had risen from 36 percent in 1990 to 58 percent in 2010, according to the report. But that left 1.74 billion people without regular access to proper toilets, with nearly half of those still suffering “the indignity of practicing open defecation”.

 

It said most of those people were in South Asia. In contrast, Southeast Asia and East Asia were described as "bright spots", where access to proper toilets had expanded to at least 64 percent of their populations, the report said. The report said 900 million people across the Asia-Pacific had gained access to clean, piped water from 1990 to 2010, describing this as an important achievement. However 65 percent of people across the Asia Pacific still lived without secure household water supplies. The situation was particularly dire in Pacific and South Asian nations where only 21 and 23 percent of their populations respectively had access to piped water. “While the Asia-Pacific region has become an economic powerhouse, it is alarming that no developing country in the region can be considered water secure,” ADB vice president for sustainable development Bindu Lohani said. “Countries must urgently improve water governance through inspired leadership and creative policy making.” The report said US$59 billion needed to be spent across the region to get water supplies up to standard, and another US$71 billion to improve sanitation.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 03/14/2013

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Good Debt Management Ensures Region's Stability

 

Emerging economies in Asia could benefit from good public debt management and development of local bond markets, which would in turn support economic stability, according to a regional debt conference. The Ministry of Finance co-hosted the Third Asian Regional Public Debt Management Forum with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last Wednesday. "Countries' experience supports the conclusion that the right composition and structure of sovereign debt can provide a cushion against the financial risk stemming from a global shock," Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said in a speech. "A deep domestic government securities market, combined with the option to access financing from international markets and institutions, ensures funding for fiscal needs and the ability to support the domestic economy," Agus said. Indonesia's economy survived a global financial crisis in 2008 to 2009 thanks to prudent debt management. More than half of the country's debt issuance was in rupiah-denominated bonds, as the country was trying to avoid the resurgence of a foreign exchange situation similar to the 1998 monetary crisis. Indonesia's debt to gross domestic product ratio has fallen in the past nine years, from 56.6 per cent in 2004 to 23.1 per cent at the end of last year.

"The government has been deepening the market by issuing diversified instruments for local investors," said David Sumual, the chief economist at Bank Central Asia. The ADB has been involved in developing local currency bonds markets in Asia, including supporting the Asian Bond Markets Initiative, the lender said. The ABMI began in Manila in 2003 with 10 Southeast Asian countries and Japan, China and South Korea aiming to make a more liquid bond market in the region. As of the end of 2012, the nine countries of emerging East Asia alone had US$6.5 trillion (RM20.22 trillion) in outstanding local currency bonds, with Indonesia's market totalling US$111 billion. Public debt management has also improved, with governments increasingly able to raise long-dated debt, making refinancing both easier and less costly, according to the development bank. Southeast Asia is moving towards increased economic integration by 2015, despite economic recoveries in the US, Europe and Japan remaining slippery, said Thierry de Longuemar, ADB's vice-president for finance and administration. Indonesia has sold rupiah- and dollar-denominated bonds since 2002 to plug its budget deficit.

From http://www.btimes.com.my 03/25/2013

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CHINA: Exploring Ways to Make Legislation More Scientific, Democratic: Wu

 

China has explored new ways of making legislation more scientific and democratic as part of the innovation drive in the work of the country's supreme legislature, top legislator Wu Bangguo said Friday. "Creating new work methods and making the work of the National People's Congress (NPC) keep up with the times is an inherent requirement for adhering to and improving the system of people's congresses," said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the 11th NPC Standing Committee. The Standing Committee improved the mechanism for releasing draft laws for public comments so that their release became a regular practice, Wu said while delivering a work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the ongoing annual parliamentary session. All draft laws under deliberation by the committee are posted online and important ones are published to solicit opinions from the society, Wu said. The committee also improved the feedback mechanism for recommendations from the public to respond to people's concerns, he said. "This process expands the people's orderly participation in legislation, makes policymaking more scientific and democratic, and raises people's awareness of the law," Wu said. Over the past five years, the committee released 48 draft laws for public comments, and over 300,000 people made more than one million comments on them, according to Wu. The committee also launched a pilot project for evaluating laws after they are passed, and established a mechanism for this purpose, Wu added.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013 

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China's Top Legislature Seeks Innovation in Supervision: Wu

 

China has created new methods of overseeing the work of the country's top administrative and judicial authorities as part of the innovation drive in the work of the country's supreme legislature, a top legislator said Friday. Inquiries are statutory means by which the National People's Congress (NPC) oversees the State Council, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the 11th NPC Standing Committee. When the Standing Committee listened to and deliberated reports of the State Council, it conducted inquiries on special topics, and invited heads of State Council departments to work with committee members to find solutions, Wu said while delivering a work report of the 11th NPC Standing Committee at the ongoing annual parliamentary session. An important function and power of the Standing Committee is to oversee central government budgets, according to Wu. In order to make the oversight more effective, the Standing Committee changed the practice of deliberating the implementation of the current year's central government budget. Wu said the Standing Committee were more focused on examining the implementation of the budget approved by the NPC and its resolution on it, transfer payments of the central government, and the availability and use of funds for key expenditures. "We also strengthened our oversight over the implementation of budgets for government-managed funds and state capital operations, and further established a system of incorporating all government revenue and expenditures into government budgets and final accounts," Wu said. The Standing Committee also tightened its follow-up oversight to help solve important and difficult problems, according to Wu. Moreover, the Standing Committee put greater emphasis on adopting a variety of oversight methods to carry out repeated investigations to get to the bottom of an issue. It also integrated oversight with revising and improving laws to give impetus to solving problems and establish a permanent mechanism for this purpose, Wu said. "Creating new work methods and making the work of the NPC keep up with the times is an inherent requirement for adhering to and improving the system of people's congresses," Wu said.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/08/2013 

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Gov't to Take Over Unqualified Civil Charity Orgs

 

The government will start managing poorly administered civil charity organizations in order to better safeguard the rights of orphans and abandoned children, a civil minister said Wednesday. Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, said at a press conference that civil authorities will also strengthen management and oversight for qualified civil charity organizations and individuals that are willing to continue to adopt orphans and abandoned children, as well as provide services to them. Seven people, including six children, died in a fire that ripped through a privately-run foster home in January in central China's Henan Province. The incident highlighted the country's lack of government-funded orphanages and foster homes. Li said adoption should be conducted within a legal framework to ensure that the rights of children are protected. Figures released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs indicate that China has about 615,000 orphans. Just 109,000 of them live in government-funded agencies, while the rest are cared for by relatives or private orphanages.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/13/2013

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China's Anti-graft Efforts to Get Institutional Impetus

 

China's anti-graft campaign is expected to gain more momentum through institutional reforms, as the country's leadership has vowed to fight corruption resolutely, analysts have said. A cabinet restructuring plan, adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC), or China's parliament, on Thursday said the country will establish a unified social credit code and real property registration systems, as well as improve the real-name registration system used for financial accounting. "Establishing the systems mentioned in the plan is of great significance," said Shen Weixing, a law professor at Tsinghua University. "For example, it will be very difficult for someone to hide the fact that they own several houses in different cities," Shen said. "The systems are a deterrent for corrupt officials, as they will help prevent them from hiding illegal gains by using fake names or other methods," he said. Home ownership and land rights are currently managed by multiple government departments. Before 2007, banks had some difficulties in confirming the authenticity of people's identification due to a lack of communication between the banks and local public security departments. The plan, which aims to reduce bureaucracy and make the government more efficient, includes splitting the Ministry of Railways into two separate business and administrative units, as well as restructuring food and drug safety regulatory bodies. Food and drug safety and railway service have been the source of numerous complaints for years, particularly in light of multiple food safety scandals and a high-speed train collision that killed 40 people in east China in July 2011. A senior official from the NPC Standing Committee said that improving anti-graft legislation to punish and prevent corruption will be a major legislative task over the next five years. The NPC Standing Committee will listen to and review an anti-graft report this year, as well as conduct researching concerning oversight for the government's budget and final accounts.

 

"The reforms and measures are concrete and substantial," said Mo Yuchuan, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at Renmin University of China. "The anti-corruption campaign is gaining momentum and is proceeding institutionally," said Liu Xuezeng, a senior member of the China Zhigong Party, a non-communist political party. Prosecutors have investigated about 13,000 officials at the county level or above for corruption and other duty-related crimes since 2008, including 30 officials at the ministerial level or higher, according to official data released during the ongoing annual session of the NPC. Bo Xilai, a former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, as well as Liu Zhijun, former minister of railways, were among the high-ranking officials investigated. "Keeping power contained within a cage of regulations is the key to preventing graft. The role of regulatory systems should be strengthened," said Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science and Law. Over the past decade, China has made efforts to combat corruption and build a clean government, including amending existing laws and creating new laws, such as those pertaining to civil servants and money laundering. In 2007, China established the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention.

 

Legal experts and lawmakers have called for drafting a more specific anti-graft law and enhancing the independence, professionalism and authority of supervisory bodies. "We should unwaveringly combat corruption, strengthen political integrity and establish institutions to abolish the excessive concentration of power," said a government work report presented to the NPC session. "We should uphold democratic oversight, legal oversight and public opinion-based oversight," the report added. "The excessive concentration of power is the root of corruption. The reform of the power structure is a precondition for combating corruption institutionally," said Li Yongzhong, an associate dean at the China Academy of Supervision and Discipline Inspection. The Internet has become an effective platform for ordinary Chinese to expose corruption scandals over the last several years. Their efforts to investigate officials who have largely been ignored by government supervisory bodies have led to the sacking of multiple government officials. Beijing lawyer Liu Hongyu said online anti-corruption efforts should act as a supplement to the current supervisory systems, as related legislation has yet to be created to regulate online muckraking. "The thinking and methods for fighting corruption should keep pace with the times," said Li Dajin, an NPC deputy and lawyer. "Research should be done to better deal with social factors that lead to corruption," said Li. "Corruption is common globally. Anti-graft efforts should be put in a more important position," said Mo.

From http://china.org.cn/ 03/16/2013 

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JAPAN: Govt Eyes Tuition Aid Increase

 

The education ministry is considering increasing financial aid to low-income families with children attending private high schools to cover their tuition, according to a senior ministry official. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry intends to set a household income ceiling to ensure it can obtain the necessary fiscal resources by reviewing the current tuition aid program for high schools. The ministry plans to decide on the details of the program by summer when it makes a budgetary request for fiscal 2014, the senior official said.

From http://newsonjapan.com 03/04/2013

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Japan Sees Increase in Solitary Non-Employed Persons

 

Solitary Non-Employed Persons is a term that perhaps many are unfamiliar with. It defines those who are unemployed and, if you exclude relatives, those without any ties in society. These ‘without occupation or social network’ wanderers are referred to in short as “SNEPs”. More specifically, the term can be applied to anyone of the working age 20-59 years who is not enrolled in education, is unemployed, unmarried and has no ties outside of one’s family. And according to reports online, Japan is witnessing a sudden increase in these such people. Prior to the coining of the term SNEP, there were “Freeters” and “NEETs” – words used to describe a similar yet undoubtedly different type of social phenomenon. Put simply, “Freeters” are those in the 15-34 age group who rely entirely on part-time employment to make a living. “NEETs”, meanwhile, are those who are not in education, employment or any form of training. They, too, fall under the same 15-34 age group. The number of people who came under the “SNEPs” category rose to 1.62 million in 2011 and made up around 60 percent of the single unemployed population. A research team led by Professor Yuji Genda from Tokyo University, made use of the data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications’ Standard of Living survey by analyzing the daily living patterns of Japanese aged between 20-59 who are not students, are unmarried and unemployed. He closely analyzed their daily living habits for a period of two days. During the stages of research, “SNEP” was created as a new concept word to define those who had contact with no one but their family for two consecutive days or more.

 

The result of the findings suggested that if numbers of this type of person continue to increase, the burden on society and social welfare will become ever more serious. The number of NEETs in the same 2011 period was 6 million, and Freeters came to a figure of 17.6 million. Although these are terms brought about by behavioral traits in the younger generations, from 2005-2012 there has also been a significant increase in unemployed men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. More specifically, within the same period, men within the 45-54 age range saw an increase in unemployment from 3.1% to 3.5%. Those aged 55-64 saw an increase from 4.2% to 5%. The total unemployment rate for 2012 was 4.3%. In an attempt to tackle the Freeter, NEET and SNEP problem face on and prevent the situation from worsening, the Japanese government has introduced such programs as “the Young People’s Independence and Challenge Plan”. However Professor Genda suggests that relying on this alone will not be as effective as one may think. He adds that what is required are more comprehensive programs that actually solve the problem of unemployment directly and remove the need to rely upon social welfare, stating: “Once young people become isolated from society, they often lose the will to find employment. Even if the safety net of the family is there to keep these unemployed people afloat, it is only a temporary measure. One can’t help but worry about their future economic prospects.”

From http://www.japantoday.com/ 03/05/2013

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Govt Mulls Support for Firms Hit by Fuel Costs

 

The government is considering supporting small- and medium-sized companies and agricultural, forestry and fishery workers, who are directly impacted by soaring oil prices, by providing subsidies and other financial measures, sources said. Due to the recent depreciation of the yen, prices of petroleum products, such as gasoline and kerosene, have increased. In light of this, the government has begun examining the effects on companies and workers and is studying financial measures to help them. If fuel prices continue to increase, the government will convene a meeting of ministers involved next month to begin compiling full-scale comprehensive assistance measures. The government is currently suggesting measures including-- Supporting financing through interest-free loans; Subsidizing costs incurred due to increased fuel costs; Offering aid to small- and medium-sized companies that retain their employees; Providing consultation services to small- and medium-sized companies that fear losing business if they pass increased fuel costs onto their clients.

 

Regarding the soaring price of crude oil due to the recent depreciation of the yen, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday expressed his intention to deal with it after carefully assessing the situation. "We've tightened monitoring the prices and supply and demand of petroleum products and will closely watch the impact on people's lives," Abe said at a meeting in the House of Councillors. The cost of crude oil has risen due to various factors, including the yen's depreciation brought about by bold monetary easing, one of the main pillars of "Abenomics," leading to increased prices. According to the Natural Resources and Energy Agency, the average prices of regular gasoline and kerosene continued to rise during the 12 weeks to late February and about three months to mid-February, respectively, affecting people's everyday lives.

From http://www.yomiuri.co.jp 03/10/2013

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SOUTH KOREA: Gov't to Ease Inflation Burden on Ordinary Citizens

 

The government isn’t wasting any time drawing up measures to ease the inflation burden on low-income South Koreans in light of President Park Geun-hye’s recent calls. Measures to respond to high prices were announced Thursday during a meeting on consumer prices at the government complex in Sejong City. Presidential secretary for economy and finance nominee Joo Hyung-hwan took part in the meeting, along with vice ministers who came instead of outgoing ministers. In order to keep inflation in the two percent range, the government will restrict additional hikes in public utility charges by absorbing additional costs through effective management. To stabilize food prices, the Fair Trade Commission and the National Tax Service are set to strictly crack down on unfair and illegal price hikes by processed food product manufacturers. The government also plans to unload its stockpile of three-thousand tons of Napa cabbage over the next month. It will also bring in this year’s mandatory imports of onions by next month to the domestic market to stabilize prices of the fresh produce. To stabilize gasoline prices that have surged in recent months, the government will supply gas at fixed prices of one-thousand-800 won per liter to thrifty gas stations early next month, if national gasoline prices fall into the two-thousand won per liter range. The Korea National Oil Corporation plans to supply a total of 30 million to 35 million liters of the cheaper gasoline to thrifty gas stations. The meeting participants assessed that although prices are showing signs of stabilizing compared to last year, the inflation rate was higher in January than last December.  The cost of processed food rose at a fast pace as snowstorms and cold spells drove up prices of local agricultural produce on top of high international grain prices.

From http://world.kbs.co.kr/ 02/28/2013

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S. Korea’s Medical Services Reach Out to Every Corner of the World

 

A dozen Cambodian visitors including journalists, travel agents, and a public health official recently came to Korea to look around major hospitals in southern Seoul. They paid a four-day visit on the invitation of Gangnam District Office. This is the first time for the district office to invite people from overseas to tour the medical establishments of Seoul. Until last year, the district sent delegations to countries such as Vietnam, China, Russia, and Kazakhstan for an explanatory session on medical tourism in Korea. The invitation is only a small part of the country’s effort to attract medical tourists. Not only the central government but also regional governments as small as districts are making an all-out effort to promote medical services in Korea, and the effort is reaching every corner of the world. The reason for the invitations from Gangnam District is to tap the growing demand in Southeast Asia for medical services. The region has surfaced as a new emerging market for medical tourism, according to Kim Jong-sam, a Gangnam health center official, who guided the Cambodians on the tour.

 

Visitors from Kazakhstan closely watch a surgery robot operating at Dongnam Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences (photo: Yonhap News). Sinh Lee, head of Sinh Travel & Tours Co. in Cambodia who participated in the tour, said although Cambodians do not know much about Korea’s relatively high medical standards, they are aware of the country’s advanced plastic surgery technology.“Plastic surgery is relatively new in Cambodia, and there are few clinics,” Lee said. However, he said most Cambodians go to Singapore or Thailand for medical treatments because of proximity and easier entry to these countries. “They can go to Thailand or Singapore at any time without a visa,” he said. Southeast Asia is also the most popular destination for medical tourism, attracting patients from all over the world. According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), Asia, led by Singapore, Thailand, and India, draws 45 percent of outbound patients from North America, 39 percent of those from Europe, and 95 percent coming from Africa.

Korea has struggled to catch up with Thailand, Singapore, and India on medical tourism but still lags far behind. Various cities and provinces in the country have been making individual efforts to lure more medical tourists on their own. Last December, Busan, Korea’s second largest city, invited medical professionals, travel agents, and journalists based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Other cities and provinces such as Daegu, Daejeon, and Jeju have been promoting themselves as medical tourism destinations. The KTO hosts an event at a hotel in Cairo, Egypt to promote Korea as medical tourism destination to the Middle East (photo: Yonhap News).The strength of Korea’s medical tourism lies in its highly skilled medical professionals, state-of-the art medical equipment, and well-established medical infrastructure. According to a report titled “Current State of Clinical Trials in Korea” by the Korea Medical Association, Seoul has the third highest standard in clinical trials in the world, after Houston and San Antonio.

In addition, 13 Korean hospitals including Seoul National University Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, and Asan Medical Center have obtained international certificates as approval for their clinical research conditions, according to the KTO. The KTO has also been promoting Korea as a leading destination for medical tourism based on such report. It has held explanatory sessions in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Kiev, Ukraine; Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok, Russia; Yangon, Myanmar; and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The number of overseas patients seeking medical treatment in Korea has been rising steadily from 60,201 in 2009, to 81,789 in 2010, 122,297 in 2011, and an estimated 150,000 in 2012 as the continued efforts are paying off, according to the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI). The U.S., Japan, China, Russia, and Mongolia are the top five nations sending patients to Korea, but according to the KHIDI patients are coming from all over from more than 100 countries around the world including even remote places like Uganda, American Samoa, Oman, Serbia, Nepal, and Paraguay.

With the most developed medical infrastructure in the country, Seoul is by far the main destination for foreign medical tourists. The capital city took in 77,858 patients in 2011 and Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province) attracted 17,092. Next is Busan (6,704), followed by Daegu (5,494), Incheon (4,004) and Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla Province, 2,104). The KTO holds an explanatory session on medical tourism in Korea underway at a hotel in Dubai (photo: Yonhap News). Busan, in particular, saw the number of foreign patients visiting the port city rise drastically, a 40.8-percent increase in 2012 from the previous year, with a total number of 14,125 medical tourists. By nation, Russian patients made up 37.7 percent with 5,333, followed by Chinese (1,670) and Japanese (1,542). The fields of medicine sought by overseas visitors in 2011 are internal medicine (15.3 percent), dermatology and plastic surgery (12.7 percent), family medicine (8.7 percent), physical examinations (8.3 percent), gynecology (7.7 percent), and Oriental medicine (5.9 percent). The proportion of physical examinations, dermatology, and plastic surgery is on the decline while internal medicine and oriental medicine have been increasing. Different countries and regions are seeking different types of medical services. Americans and Southeast Asians sought internal medicine most while Oriental medicine was most popular among the Japanese. The Chinese sought plastic surgery more than any other fields while Russians came for medical examinations most.

From http://www.korea.net/ 03/07/2013

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New Commerce Minister Vows to Create Jobs, Growth Engines

 

South Korea's new commerce minister vowed to step up efforts to create more jobs and develop new growth engines Monday, noting the country's economy, as well as its exports, are facing difficulties stemming from both external and internal factors. "Our economy is facing great difficulties. Conditions for exports are worsening due to a global economic downturn and growing competition from newly emerging economies, including China, while our labor and capital-intensive development strategy is nearing its limits," Yoon Sang-jick, the new minister of knowledge economy, said in his inaugural speech. The former vice minister of knowledge economy said the best way to overcome such difficulties is to develop new engines of growth by accelerating convergence between different industrial sectors, which he claimed will also help create new, quality jobs.

"To this end, we must improve the competitiveness of key manufacturing sectors through a convergence of information technology with manufacturing technologies and create industries that lead, not ones that follow," he said. Yoon also urged efforts to ensure joint, balanced development of small and large businesses, as well as different regions of the country. "We must also continue to strengthen our support for our small and medium-sized companies to become global firms. For an expansion of investment in the rural areas, (the ministry) will increase benefits for foreign-invested firms operating outside of the capital, and also expand support and incentives for South Korean companies returning from overseas expansions," he said. The new commerce minister said his ministry will also work to better align the country's trade policy with its overall economic policy so its trade can better support the country's national interest, as well as its economic recovery.

Under a government-proposed bill on government restructuring still pending at the National Assembly, the ministry is set to start handling the country's trade affairs, including diplomatic negotiations for free trade agreements that are currently handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "With its industrial expertise, the ministry plans to maximize the outcome of new trade policies by increasing consistency throughout the different phases of policy implementation that range from setting up trade policies to trade negotiations and policy implementation," Yoon said.

From http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/ 03/11/2013

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Korea Leads New Era of Eco-Friendly Cars

 

With the growing international interest in environment-friendly energy, leading Korean automaker and car parts producers have recently begun the commercialization of next-generation energy cars. These firms have surprised the world, exporting fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), a type of hydrogen-powered vehicle, to Europe and beginning the production of FCEV key parts, ushering in an era of next-generation cars. On March 7 Hyundai Motor Company shipped 17 FCEVs -- the Hyundai Tucson, the latest hydrogen car developed by Hyundai Motor Company -- to Europe. Fifteen of these cars will be leased to municipal fleets in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, and two will be shipped to Skåne Regional Council, the southernmost county of Sweden, for official use. These vehicles can travel up to 594 kilometers, thanks to their 100-kilometer fuel cell system and two-tank hydrogen storage system developed by Hyundai. Both Denmark and Sweden have strict regulations on environmental conservation. Four European countries -- Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland -- selected the Hyundai Tucson as model supply vehicles in 2011. The city of Copenhagen has set its goal of ushering in an era of zero-carbon transportation; the city plans to extend the proportion of environment-friendly cars up to 85 percent of all municipal fleets by 2015 and up to 30 percent of total registered vehicles in the city, according to Hyundai. “Copenhagen has been actively introducing environment-friendly cars in the city,” an employee of Hyundai Motors PR division said.

Sweden, one of the OECD’s lowest carbon-emitting countries, has been making strategic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The country seeks to achieve a fossil-fuel-independent vehicle fleet by 2030, according to the Energy Policies of IEA Countries -- Sweden 2013 Review of the International Energy Agency. "Hyundai Tucson won the prestigious FuturAuto accolade at the 2013 Brussels Motor Show this January, receiving recognition in the European market for its advanced technology," said the Hyundai Motors PR staff. The zero-emission car was selected as the winner for becoming the first mass-produced, commercially available hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, outperforming other candidates, including Bosch, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, according to Hyundai. The annual award, in its twelfth year, celebrates technological innovations in the automotive industry and is selected by a respected panel of journalists from the Belgian Automotive Press Union. Hyundai Motor Company held a celebration in late February this year to mark the beginning of FCEV production at its plant in the southeastern city of Ulsan. Hyundai is the first company in the world’s FCEV market to start producing hydrogen cars, according to Hyundai Motor Company; other firms like Mercedes Benz, GM, and Toyota, plan to produce fuel cell cars as early as 2015.Hyundai plans to sell 1,000 hydrogen cars around the world by 2015.

 

The world considers hydrogen cars the ultimate future cars, as FCEVs emit only water, unlike other cars that run on fossil fuels. Even hybrid cars which use both fossil fuels and electricity and electric vehicles which also rely on thermoelectric power supplies can’t be regarded as perfect environment-friendly cars. Korea’s top auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis has begun the production of hydrogen car parts alongside Hyundai Motor Company. The firm said on March 7 that it has begun mass production of key parts for hydrogen-powered cars, the first such operation in the world. These car parts, including lithium battery packages and driving motors developed by Hyundai Mobis, will be used in the production of the Hyundai Tucson. In line with its green growth policy initiative, the Korean government is planning to expand support for environment-friendly cars. The number of eco-friendly cars sold in Korea in 2012 recorded 36,000 out of a total of 1.17 million cars, accounting for more than three percent of total car purchases last year, according to the Ministry of Environment’s statistics on the Eco-Friendly Car Supply Plan 2013 which was released in mid-January this year. This means one out of every 30 newly purchased cars in the country last year was environment-friendly. The ministry plans to extend government support for production of environment-friendly cars by domestic car makers and expand the supply of eco-friendly cars, including FCEVs, hybrids, and electric cars in the private sector and local entities, including Gwangju Metropolitan City.

From http://www.korea.net 03/12/2013

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INDONESIA: Jakarta to Leverage Use of Geospatial Data for Decision Making

 

Indonesia’s capital city signed an agreement with the Geospatial Information Agency to leverage the use of geospatial information to support the city administration’s efforts in developing sustainable programmes. According to an official statement, the objective of the agreement is to develop the city administration’s capability to use geospatial data in the Jakarta’s urban planning and socio-economic activities. “Development activities will be much more effective and efficient when supported by authoritative and accurate geospatial data and information,” said Asep Karsidi, Head of the Geospatial Information Agency. “At present, the Indonesian government, from policy makers at the local level to the national level have started using geospatial data and information in a variety of purposes. Through it, projects are more ‘impactful’ and citizens can enjoy the results of well-informed decisions.” The agreement includes the implementation of a Geographic Information System, technical trainings for GIS officers, and research and development in the field of data and application of geospatial information and technology. Furthermore, the agreement also includes the establishment of the necessary facilities and infrastructures to support the collection, storage and sharing of geospatial information by the city administration and the Geospatial Information Agency.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/22/2013

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MYANMAR: Making Efforts to Promote Agricultural Development

 

Myanmar is making efforts to promote the development of agricultural sector with long- and short-term plans being implemented for transformation of conventional farming into mechanized farming across the country. Special emphasis is being placed to improve living standard of farmers and boost agricultural development. On the occasion of Saturday's Peasants Day, Myanmar President U Thein Sein, in his message, cited the private sector's active participation in the production of high yield and marketable quality of all crops. He called on the government to increase agricultural loan to address the peasants' need of the injection of capital in the sector. The president encouraged farm enterprises to shift from export of raw agricultural produce to quality product by establishing advanced rice mills, oil mills, refineries and packaging facilities. He also emphasized the needs to catch up with neighboring agro- based economies through five ways, namely enthusiasm, mindset change, land reform, mechanization and using high-yield strains.

 

He also called on farmers to boost production for food sufficiency as Myanmar's population is expected to reach about 100 million in next 30 years. He further underlined the need of higher education for new generation of the farmers. Meanwhile, Myanmar government and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have signed a five-year Country Program Framework Agreement (2012-16) in February to implement three of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The program will be carried out by the FAO and three Myanmar ministries -- Agriculture and Irrigation, Livestock Fisheries, and Forestry to assist the MDGs No. 1, 7 and 8. Myanmar is also cooperating with the international organizations for the development of agriculture which includes building an agricultural research institution at the University of Agriculture in Yezin in Nay Pyi Taw with the assistance of India. Upon completion of the institution, India is to send experts to conduct training on academic and research works and the institution will admit graduates from Yezin University of Agriculture for pursuing further studies.

 

To promote the agricultural development, India has also extended an aid of 10 million U.S. dollars' farming equipment to Myanmar. In addition, Myanmar is cooperating with two agricultural firms from Thailand and the Philippines in terms of production technique in a bid to produce quality paddy seeds and rice. The Thai firm will export 1.8 million tons of rice per year, while the Philippines, which is engaged in research, development and production of superior hybrid rice, will export 500,000 tons of rice annually. Myanmar is also bringing in Japanese technology from the Mizuho Financial Group Inc of Japan to push for agricultural development. In an effort to boost trade with Myanmar, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) has launched a new business support center in Yangon. Companies from South Korea and Vietnam are also planning to make investment in Myanmar. MITSUI & Co., Ltd. from Japan and Vina Capital from Vietnam have signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation Limited (MAPCO) for agricultural cooperation.

 

MAPCO will set up the Integrated Food and Energy Production factories in Yangon, Ayeyawady and Bago regions as well as Nay Phi Taw. An Integrated Food and Energy Production Complex factory will be built in Yangon region, which would be jointly constructed by MITSUI & Co., Ltd and MAPCO. The Japanese company is planning arrangements to establish advanced rice grinding and purifying mills. As of the end of 2012, foreign investment in Myanmar's agricultural sector totaled 182.75 million U.S. dollars in nine projects, accounting for only 0.44 percent of the total since the country opened to such investment in late 1988. Myanmar exported 610,500 tons of rice, gaining nearly 212.2 million U.S. dollars in 2012, a drop from 789,100 tons and 307 million dollars in 2011, according to the government's statistics.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/03/2013

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PHILIPPINES: Mandatory Biometric Voter Registration Introduced

 

President Benigno Aquino has signed a law making it mandatory for voters to register their biometric information with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The new law declares that “it is the policy of the State to establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters through the adoption of biometric technology”. It was passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate in December 2012. The biometric validation will begin on 1 July. Voters who fail to submit their biometric information such as voice, fingerprint, signature and iris scan, for validation before the last day of filing of registration applications for the May 2016 elections shall be removed from the voter registry, and may apply for reactivation after the elections. About 8 million Filipinos out of the 50 million registered voters have no biometric records with the Comelec. The new law prohibits the use of the database of voter information for “any purpose other than for electoral exercises”, and requires the Comelec to keep the database secure.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 02/25/2013

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The Philippines Improves Project Management with Geo-Tagging

 

The geo-tagging tool used by the Department of Agriculture in its Mindanao Rural Development Program (DA-MRDP) was lauded by World Bank for its innovative approach in facilitating efficient project management in many development projects. Geo-tagging involves attaching location-specific information such as geographical coordinates to pictures, videos and even text messages. Users would need a GPS-enabled phone and internet connection to upload multimedia to a web-based application such as Google, which provides the platform to geo-tag free of charge. The tool enables the agency to check whether the photos which the local government staff took on the ground matched data in the headquarters. In addition, it allows decision makers to have heightened situational awareness on what projects have been implemented, their location, how much was spent and how they are progressing now.

 

“It allows us to accurately and easily locate, validate, monitor and manage projects in remote and conflict-affected areas. As such, it has improved transparency and efficiency in procurement and project management,” says DA-MRDP Director Lealyn Ramos in an official statement. She adds that it has enabled the local government staff to monitor the progress of the project without traveling to the outskirts of the countryside that are oftentimes, if not always, risky, she added. “As we implement projects in Mindanao we are constantly faced with the challenges of accessibility, manpower, resources and security concerns,” said MRDP deputy program director Arnel V. De Mesa. Meanwhile, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, efforts are underway to institutionalise the use of geo-tagging so that the local government staff and contractors can jointly oversee and monitor the progress of infrastructure projects. In December 2012, the National Economic Development Authority has awarded the DA-MRDP with the ‘Good Practice Award’ for the use of the geo-tagging tool to improve transparency and governance in development projects.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/06/2013

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The Philippines to Standardise Template of Government Websites

 

162 webmasters from different government agencies are set to undergo intensive training on how they can develop and manage their respective government websites, based on a template specially designed to give the web portals a standard “look” and “feel”. The Website Template Project is a response to an Executive Order mandating all government websites to have a standard “look” and “feel”. In addition, it also supports the Department of Science and Technology’s goal to improve accessibility and security of government websites by providing a central web hosting facility. According to an official statement, the training series will instruct the webmasters on how they can integrate the Government Website Template, including its policies and standards, using Joomla, Drupal and WordPress as content management systems (CMS).

 

“Through the standardised websites, Local Government Units, National Government Agencies and State Universities and Colleges will experience ease in navigation and use of digital assets,” said Antonette Torres, iGovPhil Project Manager. “More than that, content, news updates, public documents and other services will be easily accessible to the citizens.” The Government Website Template is an initiative under the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) project led by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute and Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and in collaboration with the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO). The iGovPhil project aims to enhance government efficiency and effectiveness by using and putting relevant mechanisms to implement interactive, interconnected and interoperable government applications. Its components include: a Government Email system, Public Key Infrastructure to enhance the security of transactions and communications, the National Records Management Information System (NARMIS), a secure payment gateway, secure data centers and integrated fiber optic network to interconnect the various agencies of government.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/25/2013

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SINGAPORE: On Track to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 7% to 11%

 

SINGAPORE: Singapore is on track to meeting its unconditional pledge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7 to 11 per cent below 2020 levels. Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said there are measures in place to reduce the carbon footprint of Singapore's industries. They include tax incentives and third-party financing schemes which encourage private financing of energy-efficient projects. Mr Iswaran was reply to a question by Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam in Parliament on Wednesday. Mrs Chiam had asked why is the coal-burning Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex (TMUC) on Jurong Island allowed to operate considering that coal is one of the most polluting source of energy and whether Singapore has met its international obligations to reduce its carbon emissions. Mr Iswaran explained that while the use of fuel oil and natural gas are less polluting energy options used by industries, the Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex located on Jurong Island uses a mix of clean coal and biomass to produce steam and electricity for chemical companies.

 

"Clean coal is a significantly cheaper fuel option compared to fuel oil and natural gas, and the use of coal is expected to reduce steam prices by at least 10 per cent for customers of TMUC," he said. "To strike a balance with environmental concerns, only the use of low-ash and low-sulphur coal has been permitted, and biomass is mixed with coal to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to below that of an equivalent fuel oil plant. The co-generation process employed by TMUC is also more efficient than the separate production of steam and power through boilers and combined cycle gas turbines," he added. Mr Iswaran said: "In addition, measures have been put in place by our environmental agencies to ensure that the TMUC meets environmental standards as stipulated under the Environmental Protection and Management Act and its Regulations. TMUC is held to stringent requirements for pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and mercury. The company is also required to transport coal via covered transportation systems to prevent fugitive dust emissions, and recycle ash as construction material."

From http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ 03/13/2013

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Singapore to Install CCTVs to Control Parking

 

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) today announced that it will install Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras at 30 locations across Singapore to deter illegal parking. The announcement is part of LTA’s ongoing initiative to use technology to optimise resources needed for parking enforcement and improvement in traffic flow. LTA has already conducted a trial by installing CCTV cameras in two popular locations in Singapore. With the cameras, illegal parking was detected and deterred successfully, improving traffic conditions, and encouraging LTA to deploy the same technology across the country. The 30 locations were selected based on factors such as high incidence of illegal parking, traffic congestion, impediment to smooth travel of public buses and safety concerns for pedestrians. The installation will begin in the second quarter of 2013 and will be completed by 2014. LTA has released two tenders for the installation and operation of the CCTV cameras. The need for expansion to other locations will be reviewed after implementation.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/18/2013

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THAILAND: To Launch Mobile App for Income Tax Submission

 

The Revenue Department (RD), Thailand will launch a mobile app for the submission of personal income tax by mid of March as the latest e-service for smart phone users. RD Director-General Satit Rungkasiri said that the department has been piloted the app and is now confident that the new mobile service is user-friendly, fast, and convenient for users. “Moreover, the app can facilitate high-security financial transactions with banks via mobile phones.” Rungkasiri believed the new app will provide a more convenient mean for taxpayers and encourage them to adopt this channel to submit their tax information. “Next year, we may see higher numbers of taxpayers using mobile phone to submit and pay taxes more than doing it via internet next year,” he added. The project started at the mid of 2012, and will now only be available for half a month before the deadline of the personal income tax submission at the end of March, according to him. “It is a good step as we can test the system,” he said and added that the app will be developed further to be more user-friendly, more casual looking and interesting interface. “Mobile service will replace the existing systems because almost all taxpayers are now using smartphone,” he added.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/01/2013

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Thailand to Set Up New Mapping Database

 

Deputy Premier Plodprasop Suraswadi revealed plans to set up a THB140-billion (USD 4.7 billion) mapping database using a 1:4,000 scale in a bid to centralise the use standardised maps in government agencies. According to Suraswadi, the system will support key projects such as the THB 350-billion (US11.7 billion) Water Management scheme and the THB2.2 trillion (USD 73 billion) large-scale infrastructure project. In addition, the system will also improve efforts on improving precision farming and forest and land management. The move stemmed from a need to standardise map usage in government agencies. At present, government agencies have used a variety of maps with different scales to plan for development projects. This has proved to be problematic especially when data is shared to other organisations. For instance, a 1:250,000 ratio is used to designate areas as national parks, while the Land Department uses a 1:40,000 scale for land management, this causes confusion over several issues as both agencies have to work together closely. Once the system is in place, government agencies will be equipped with a mapping database which enables them to leverage aerial photographs and high resolution satellite images to efficiently and effectively plan long-term development projects. “On farmland zoning for example, enhanced images could show which plots are being used to grow crops. The system would also allow high-resolution photographs that would help the government work out exactly what areas were damaged by flooding and who needs to be compensated,” Suraswadi said. Furthermore, the government will be investing THB 420 Billion (USD 14 billion) for the project and will also entail the creation of a new agency to lead its development.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/12/2013

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Thailand’s Smart City Steps Up Network Progress

 

Under Thailand’s first Smart City Project, Nakhon Nayok province has recently signed a MOU to cover the entire province with broadband infrastructure and enhance the connection among local agencies with high speed internet via optical fibre. Presiding over the signing ceremony, Nakhon Nayok Governor Dr Surachai Sirisaracam said that as the first Smart City, Nakhon Nayok would leverage ICT to strengthen the community’s competitiveness, and prepare the province for the Asean Economic Community in 2015. In partnership with True Corp, a broadband infrastructure will be built to cover four districts and 408 villages by end of the year. “The province will receive a 2014 fiscal budget of THB 625 million (US$ 21.07 million) for the smart city project,” he revealed. After the new infrastructure has been established, the use of ICT will be promoted to increase competitiveness among citizens in the community, according to him. Latest communication technology will also be provided to increase efficiency of local government agencies, improving the government’s network with wireless internet and cloud computing to accommodate multiple devices, he said. True Corp will further expand its 3G Plus Truemove H network, which currently covers 90 per cent of the province’s total 250,000 people. It will also expand the fibre network to connect 21 local agencies with high speed internet. Apart from enjoying convenient internet access, citizens of Nakhon Nayok will benefit from a new e-commerce platform by True Corp that will modernise the market channel to promote local products.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/14/2013

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VIETNAM: City to Launch Smart Transport Management System

 

The Transport Department of Hanoi city will be rolling out the pilot trial of its smart transport management system in Thang Long Highway in a bid to improve road safety and traffic management. Thang Long Highway is currently the longest highway in Vietnam, with a distance of 28 kilometres. Part of the project is the implementation of CCTV cameras and computer networks that aims to help the transport department manage traffic activities along the highway. In addition, it also aims to help local authorities respond better to vehicular and roadside accidents by sharing real-time information of the incident to concerned offices. Once the pilot trial is deemed successful, the transport department will then fully implement the system in other expressways in Hanoi. It is expected that the system will help local authorities improve the efficiency of managing traffic congestion along major expressways. To better transport conditions, the city is building 34 bridges over rivers and 15 overpasses while trying to complete the construction of some key belt roads and highways.

From http://www.futuregov.asia/ 03/05/2013

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Vietnam to Prioritize Sustainable Conservation and Management of Water Resources: PM

 

Vietnam will prioritize the sustainable conservation and management of water resources as it is an important part of the nation's 2011-2020 development strategy and the 2020 national strategy on water resources. Dung made the remarks in a speech to open the AsiaEurope Meeting (ASEM) workshop on water and river basin management-a green growth approach-in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho on Thursday, Vietnam's state-run news agency reported. Vietnam will actively take part in and contribute to international efforts through various cooperation levels, Dung said, adding that the nation pays due attention to raising cooperation efficiency along the Mekong River. ASEM should be more active in assisting and linking its members' regional and sub-regional programs, he said, adding that orientations should be planned so that ASEM's activities contribute to the international community's sustainable management and development of water resources.

 

Dung suggested that conserving water resources in a sustainable manner be included in every nation's sustainable development and green growth strategy, and combined with the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs). At the two-day event, 150 delegates from 51 ASEM member nations and relevant organizations will discuss water resources and sustainable development, food and energy security, and improving the efficiency of Asia-Europe cooperation in water resource management. The participants are expected to adopt a report detailing proposals to be submitted to the 11th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting in India in November, 2013, and the 10th ASEM Senior Officials Meeting in Belgium in 2014. At another meeting held on the same day in Can Tho to mark the World Water Day 2013, Dung said that as two-thirds of Vietnam's water reserve sourced from the Red River and Mekong River which originate from the neighboring countries, international cooperation in sharing, using and developing water resources in a sustainable manner needs to be intensified.

 

Cooperation in water issue will contribute importantly to reducing poverty, promoting social equality, and creating better living conditions and education opportunities, especially for women and children, thus realizing successfully all UN MDGs, Dung said. According to the UN report on the MDGs 2012, around 11 percent of the world's population or 780 million people have not access to fresh water. Weather extremes caused by climate change have contributed to the degradation and exhaustion of water resources.The World Water Day, themed "Water, water everywhere, only if we share", emphasized the need to enhance cooperation towards the common goal of using water in an effective and sustainable manner.

From http://news.xinhuanet.com/ 03/21/2013

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BANGLADESH: Up on Human Development Scale

 

The United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) “2013 Human Development Report”, released on Friday in Dhaka as elsewhere in the world, measured national achievements in health, education and income to rank countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). With Bangladesh’s 69.2 years of life expectancy at birth, 8.1 expected years of schooling, 4.8 average years of schooling and $1,785 per capita income, the country has been ranked 146th, , carrying 0.515 weightage in the index, among the 187 countries. The Bangladesh’s position, which cannot be compared with the previous report as the UNDP says methodologies have been changed, is equal to Pakistan, despite the fact that Bangladesh’s health and education sector have seen substantial progresse. “It is because of income level. Pakistan’s per capita income is $2,566,” said UNDP Bangladesh’s Assistant Country Director KAM Morshed while presenting the report.

 

He said Pakistan was ‘in better position’ than Bangladesh in 1980 from where they started to see the progress trend. Bangladesh was ranked 147th in the 2012 report. The 2013 report — The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World — presented the story of over 40 developing countries that have made ‘striking human development gains’ in the recent years. The report attributed their achievements to strong national commitment to better public health and education services, innovative poverty eradication programmes and strategic engagement with the world economy.“The South as a whole is driving global economic growth and social change for the first time in centuries,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, in the foreword. The report also acknowledged sustained economic growth of Bangladesh driven by textiles. “By 2010, Bangladesh’s share of world apparel exports increased to about 4.8 percent, from about 0.8 percent in 1990,” it said. It showed that between 1980 and 2012, Bangladesh’s life expectancy at birth increased 14 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.8 years and expected years of schooling by 3.7 years.

 

It said Bangladesh’s per capita income had also increased by about 175 percent between 1980 and 2012. UNDP Country Director Pauline Tamesis said in contrast to the emerging economic powers, ‘Bangladesh’s human development progress has been still stronger than the economic gains.’“This country’s across-the-board performance, mapped by growth in its HDI, has been exceptional – which has grown by some 65 percent on 1980.” The highlights also include a very strong performance with regard to gender, in regional terms. But Dhaka University’s Professor of Economics Dr Selim Raihan was cautious in his remarks. He said Bangladesh had definitely progressed in the last three decades like other countries, ‘but we are not pro-active development state that has been highlighted in the report.’ “Even our related ratings with other countries have not changed,” he said.

 

The report highlighted progress of 18 countries -- Korea, Chile, Mexico, Malaysia, Mauritius, Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ghana, India, Lao PDR, Bangladesh, Uganda and Rwanda – for being proactive development states, their integration with the global market and determined social innovation. He said Bangladesh’s economic growth had led the human development. “We did not notice that our human resource development has led the economic growth.” He said in a proactive development state, ‘there must be institutional and economic growth coming from investment in the human resource development.’“Our investment in the health sector is still low and our school dropout rate is very high,” he said. He, however, said Bangladesh had integrated itself with the global market. Norway, Australia and the United States lead the UN rankings.

From http://bdnews24.com 03/15/2013

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Poverty Reduction Bangladesh Identified as ‘Star Performer’

 

Bangladesh has been identified as one of the ‘star performers’ in the poverty reduction initiative globally as the world poverty is coming down rapidly.  Some of the poorest people in the world are becoming significantly less poor, according to a groundbreaking academic study which has taken a new approach to measuring deprivation. The report, by Oxford University's poverty and human development initiative, predicts that countries among the most impoverished in the world could see acute poverty eradicated within 20 years if they continue at present rates, reports the Guardian. It identifies ‘star performer’ nations such as Rwanda, Nepal and Bangladesh as places where deprivation could disappear within the lifetime of present generations. Close on their heels with reductions in poverty levels were Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia.

 

The study comes after the UN's latest development report published last week which stated that poverty reduction drives in the developing world were exceeding all expectations. It says: "The world is witnessing an epochal 'global rebalancing' with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new 'global middle class'.  Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast." The brighter global picture is the result of international and national aid and development projects investing in schools, health clinics, housing, infrastructure and improved access to water. The UN also pointed to trade as being a key factor which was improving conditions in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. These improvements have not been picked up in the past when poverty has been measured strictly in income terms without taking into account other factors – health, education and living standards.

 

The study of the world's poorest one billion people uses a new measure, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which was just updated in the 2013 UN report. It includes 10 indicators to calculate poverty – nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling and attendance, cooking fuel, water, sanitation, electricity assets and a covered floor. The initiative hopes insights from the MPI will incentivise international donors and governments to help the poorest by allowing the results to be measured. The academics believe old methods of looking at income levels – such as those living on $1.25 a day or less – ignores other deprivations in, for example, nutrition, health and sanitation. The system was developed in 2010 by the institute's director, Dr Sabina Alkire, and Dr Maria Emma Santos. Dr Alkire said: "As poor people worldwide have said, poverty is more than money – it is ill health, it is food insecurity, it is not having work, or experiencing violence and humiliation, or not having health care, electricity, or good housing.“Citizen activism is under-appreciated for its role. Maybe we have been overlooking the power of the people themselves, women who are empowering each other, civil society pulling itself up.” The study found that in 2013 a total of 1.6 billion people are living in "multidimensional" poverty. The poorest one billion live in 100 countries.  Most of the bottom billion live in South Asia, with India home to 40 percent, followed by sub-Saharan Africa with 33 percent. The report also found that 9.5 percent of the bottom billion poor people lived in developed, upper middle-income countries.

From http://www.unbconnect.com 03/18/2013

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INDIA: NIIT Technologies Launches CCTNS Project in Odisha

 

IT services provider NIIT Technologies launched the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS) project in Odisha. The project will reinforce the Indian police in its modernization efforts by playing a significant role in the implementation of the CCTNS. A release stated the implementation of first phase has started in Odisha in two pilot districts at 36 police stations and 11 offices. The project will help in linking 581 police stations, connecting 728 locations. With CCTNS in place, the project facilitates digitization of approximately 25 lakh police records of last 10 years and will train 28,000 police personnel across the state to familiarize them with police workflow in a digitized environment. This could help improve the functioning of police to keep track of case progress and reduce manual and redundant records keeping. Speaking on the implementation, Naveen Pattnaik, Chief Minister, Odisha, said: “Police officers must be trained so that they are able to take full advantage of the latest technologies for tracking criminals and bringing them to book.” “Full-scale implementation of the project would take place throughout the state by the end of the current calendar year.” With the CCTNS in place, there will be a huge scope of improvement in the functioning of police to keep track of cases progress and reduce manual and redundant records keeping. In a year’s time, the facility will be extended to all police stations in the state, M Akshya, Director, State Crime Record Bureau said.

From http://egov.eletsonline.com 03/06/2013

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SRI LANKA: Proposed Power Tariff Hikes Open for Public Comment

 

Sri Lanka's state-run Ceylon Electricity Board has sought increases in tariffs of over 100 percent for some categories for 2013, while keeping tariffs for places of worship and some industries at steeply subsidized levels. Places of religious worship, would continue to get the cheapest power, paying between 1.90 to 7.00 rupees a unit, compared to a cost of production over 20 rupees, though there is a small increase in some categories. Larger households will no longer benefit from lower rates at the first few blocks as all units will be charged at the tariff applicable for the total use, according to CEB tariff proposals released for public comment by the Public Utilities Commission, the power regulator. Small households below 60 units, who get the biggest subsidy after religious users have been proposed increases of up to 58 percent but they would still get power for about 10 rupees a unit or less even after a fuel adjustment charge.

 

Increases will be steeper between 60 and 90 units but they would receive a unit at under 11 rupees. Above 90 units however steep increases will be seen of up to 126 percent with a unit costing on average about 20 rupees with the fuel adjustment and fixed charges. The CEB has proposed reducing the exorbitant 36 rupee per unit charge for households using above 300 units to 32 though a 40 percent fuel adjustment charge remains. Analysts have said that the exorbitant rate for large households had set all kinds of perverse incentives such as making diesel generation and solar power viable, in addition to undermining the basic principle of making energy cost-based. Industrial category I would continue to get subsidized power at 12.50 rupees a unit (up from 10.50) but other industries had been upped to above 20 rupees a unit from 13.40 and 13.60 rupees. Low off-peak rates would still be available for a night shift between 2330 to 0530 hours. Time of day tariffs would also be available for general purpose category.

 

Government agencies would get power at under 15.00 rupees a unit. Analysts have pointed out that state agencies should be charged the full cost of power and the cost borne through the respective ministry budgets, such as education or healthcare. But by forcing the CEB to run losses which are then filled by bank credit, the total budget deficit can be understated. The regulator will have a public hearing on the proposed CEB tariffs on April 04. Public comments should be sent before March 28, indicating whether they wish to speak at the public hearing. Sri Lanka's rulers use power tariffs as a taxation and income redistribution measure where those with the least bargaining power such as general purpose and large householders pay the most. Industrial users have had lot of clout in the past and manage to get subsidized power. Mis-pricing is also found between petrol, used by small car owners and motorcycle users, diesel used by bus-owners, who are organized and have bargaining clout. Bank credit used to manipulate energy prices including diesel and furnace oil have in the past repeatedly caused balance of payments crises and weakened the rupee, hitting the poorest the hardest through higher basic prices, especially food. While energy is subsidized to some users, foods are taxed at high rates to fill state spending. The last BOP crisis triggered by bank credit taken to manipulate mostly power tariffs during a drought sent the rupee from 110 to 134 to the US dollar, though the rupee recovered after interest rates and energy prices were raised to curb credit growth.

From http://www.lankabusinessonline.com 03/11/2013

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AZERBAIJAN: Timing Announced for Commercial Sale of First Satellite's Resources to Foreign Markets

 

The first national telecommunications satellite Azerspace-1 will be transferred to the control of Azercosmos OJS in mid-March, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov told journalists on Wednesday. "Starting April 1, Azerbaijani TV channels will be placed on satellite resources. Commercial sale of the satellite resources to foreign markets will start on May 1," he said. Currently the American Orbital Sciences Corp. is testing the Azerspace-1 satellite. The satellite took its orbital position at 46 degrees east longitude and is managed by experts of Azercosmos from the main control centre. Azerspace/Africasat-1a was launched from the start complex ELA-3 at the Guiana Space Centre on Feb. 8 by an Ariane 5 ECA rocket carrier of French company Arianespace. The payload of Azerspace/Africasat-1, built on the STAR-2 platform, consists of 36 transponders (24 C-band transponders and a 12 Ku-band range). The frequency band of each transponder is 36 MHz and the satellite weights 3275 kg and it service life in orbit will extend up to 14 years. The satellite was launched into a geostationary orbit at 46 degrees east longitude and is leased from Malaysia's Measat Satellite Systems, owned by the government of Malaysia. Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North Africa will be included in the service area of Azerspace. The Azerbaijani satellite Azerspace/Africasat-1 is designed to provide digital broadcasting, Internet access, data transmission and the creation of VSAT multiservice networks and governmental communications.

From http://callcenterinfo.tmcnet.com/ 02/27/2013

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Microsoft Azerbaijan Innovation Day to Take Place in Baku

 

Microsoft Azerbaijan Innovation Day will be held on March 6, 2013 at the Four Seasons Hotel, the company's press release says on Thursday. Speeches by Elmir Velizade, deputy minister of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies, General Manager of Microsoft Azerbaijan, Rufat Hajialibayov, and technology advisers at Microsoft Russia and Azerbaijan, Maxim Bocharov and Gachay Mirzaev are expected at the event. "Innovation Day - is an annual event, dedicated to latest innovations developed by the company and the information about improvements, additions, benefits of new products. This year, such a global annual event will coincide with the Year of Information and Telecommunication Technologies,"General Manager of Microsoft Azerbaijan, Rufat Hajialibayov said. As part of the Innovation Day, Microsoft will unveil the latest products, as well as report on the development plans in Azerbaijan in the Year of Information and Telecommunication Technologies. Speakers will make presentations on the benefits and new features of the latest Microsoft products, namely Windows 8 operating system, the productivity of the New Office, MS System Center 2012 and MS Windows Server 2012. Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing.

 

Microsoft Corporation develops and manufactures a wide range of software products. These include desktop and network operating systems, server applications for client-server environments, desktop business applications and business applications for users, interactive programs and games, instruments to work in Internet and development tools. In addition, Microsoft offers interactive (online) services, publishes books on computer topics, and manufactures peripheral equipment for computers, engaged in research and development of new computer technologies. Microsoft products are sold in more than 80 countries, translated into more than 45 languages (including Azerbaijani) and are compatible with most PC platforms. Scalable Server Operating Systems and Microsoft applications are a great platform for Internet services delivery and the effective business organization. Microsoft Corporation, operating in Azerbaijan since 2005, is represented by seven experts, focused on interaction between the public and private sectors as well as on issues of humanitarian concern. Microsoft Azerbaijan's main aim is to offer the latest products and software designs that would contribute to Azerbaijan's development through their introduction into e-government, business administration and education. More information about the company and its products can be found on Microsoft's websites:

From http://en.trend.az/ 02/28/2013

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Azerbaijan's Government Sums Up 2012 Economic Performance

 

The main macroeconomic indicators of Azerbaijan were in focus of the Azerbaijani parliament on Friday as Prime Minister Artur Rasizade presented the government's report on the results of 2012 to the session of Milli Majlis. Addressing the session, Rasizade said the main characteristic feature of the economic life of Azerbaijan in 2012 was accelerated diversification of the economy. "Whereas previously, GDP growth was ensured by the mining industry, now the economy is growing at the expense of the non-oil sector. In 2012, the GDP grew by 2.2 percent and non-oil GDP - 9.7 per cent," Rasizade said. According to the prime minister, $25.8 billion was invested in the Azerbaijani economy from all sources in 2012 and 75 percent of these funds was invested in the non-oil sector. Rasizade said further that in 2012, the country's inflation was 1.1 percent. Its strategic currency reserves amounted to $46 billion, which exceeds the external debt eight-fold. Revenues of the consolidated budget amounted to 20.1 billion manats ($25.6 billion). Rasizade said that special attention was given to strengthening the energy security of Azerbaijan and continuation of the oil strategy. "Azerbaijan implements important projects on the expansion of generating capacity, increasing efficiency and construction and reconstruction of power lines and substations of distribution systems," he said, adding that the ratification of TANAP gas pipeline project agreements by Azerbaijan and other projects will enhance the country's role in the supply of natural gas to Europe. Moreover, the prime minister added, soft loans in the amount of 212 million manats (around $270 million) were allocated to entrepreneurs through the National Fund for Entrepreneurship Support under the Ministry of Economic Development in 2012. As a result, the total portfolio of concessional financing of the business has reached 1.2 billion manats in recent years.

 

Social spending

Azerbaijan aims to further continue its policy of improving the social conditions of the population, introduction of advanced technologies and proper use of human potential. According to Rasizade, average monthly wage in the country rose by 8.7 percent in 2012, while the average monthly pensions were brought to the level of 152 manats. Rasizade also said the problem of Soviet-era deposits' payback to the population was solved last year and by the end of the year the population received compensations worth over 550 million manats. He added that the process will finish this year. According to the projections, the individual lump-sum payments to depositors of the Savings Bank of Azerbaijan SSR will cover 2.4 million citizens in Azerbaijan -- which has population of over 9.3 million. The depositors are owners of personal deposit accounts. According to preliminary estimates of the Finance Ministry, funds amounting to about 1 billion manats will be required to provide these benefits. Speaking about the work done to improve the living standards of the people displaced during the war with Armenia in the early 1990s, Rasizade said 23,000 IDPs received new apartments in 2012. In total, 600 million manats were spent on their needs, he added. The prime minister said that Azerbaijan has increased budgetary spending on health more than 12.5 times over the past ten years. Over 500 medical facilities were built or repaired in this period. As a result, life expectancy increased and mortality among children and mothers reduced. Rasizade said that in 2012, reconstruction of healthcare institutions and use of advanced technologies were continued, the logistics of educational institutions was strengthened, and the use of information technologies in healthcare and education was accelerated. In 2012, development of projects on reconstruction of water supply and sanitation systems in all regions of the country was launched. Also, major infrastructure projects were implemented in the transport sector and decisive steps were taken to shape up information society in the country. Huge investments were made in ICT technologies, Rasizade said.

 

GDP growth

The average GDP growth in Azerbaijan totaled 13 percent in 2003-2012; in the non-oil sector the figure was 10.6 percent. In 2003-2012, the prime minister said, capital investments increased 7.3 times, the economy more than tripled and investments in the economy amounted to $132 billion. During this period, the state budget increased 19-fold, strategic currency reserves -- 29-fold, lending to the economy by 20.5 times, income of the population 6.9-fold, average monthly salary 6.3 times and average pensions 6.4 times. During this period, over one million jobs were created and the poverty rate declined from 44.7 percent to 6 percent, Rasizade said. The state forecast on GDP growth rate in 2013 is at 5.3 percent, and the total volume of Azerbaijan's GDP is to reach $71 billion, with 55 percent of the growth expected to be provided by the non-oil economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast the Azerbaijani GDP growth in 2013 to make up 3.8 percent, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development predicts the real GDP growth at 3 percent, and Asian Development Bank at 3.5 percent. The World Bank expects GDP growth in Azerbaijan to make up 4.2 percent in 2013. It expects gross production to increase by 3.7 percent in Azerbaijan in 2014 and 3.6 percent in 2015.

 

Financing of regional development

In 2012, 4.7 billion manats were allocated to finance work under the state program on the social and economic development of Azerbaijani regions in 2009-2013. In addition, Rasizade said, over 2.1 billion manats were allocated for the implementation of the state program on socio-economic development of Baku and its suburbs. "The two state programs on regional development implemented in Azerbaijan are yielding positive results. 16 billion manats were allocated to finance the state program in 2009-2012, which exceeds the costs of the first state program by 2.4 times," Rasizade said. Earlier it was reported that a new state regional development program, covering the period from 2014-2018, is being prepared in Azerbaijan. The program is being developed based on the suggestions of local and central executive authorities. The Azerbaijani parliament adopted the government's report with 105 votes.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 03/15/2013

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KAZAKHSTAN: Foreigners Arriving in Kazakhstan Can Be Registered Online

 

Foreign guests can now be registered through an e-government in Kazakhstan, the Ministry of New Technologies said today. "After signing in on the website, the user fills out an online application by entering data," he said. "An application is certified by the electronic digital signature of a Kazakh citizen (a representative of the hosting side, who filled in the online application.) A notification of registration which must be printed will be sent to a user's personal account in the case of a positive reply or refusal." One can register a foreign visitor on the e-government's portal within 15 minutes if that person has one e-digital signature. Meanwhile, while visiting the state department directly, this procedure will take at least one working day and require three documents. This service is available as a pilot scheme for individuals in all regions of the Kazakh Republic.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/14/2013

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TURKMENISTAN: Securities Market Formed

 

Turkmenistan is working to form a stock market, according to information released by the country's Institute of Strategic Planning and Economic Development. "Particular importance is attached to the formation of full-fledged securities market. As part of ongoing market reforms, the nation will open a stock market" the statement said. These measures will further accelerate the development of the private sector of economy in the country. Previously, a state program was approved for the development of the securities market by 2016 that is intended to develop the securities market, improve the activities of Turkmenistan's financial institutions, allow for the rational allocation of financial resources in the economy by expanding the types of financial transactions, as well as attract long-term investment on a sustainable basis. An Article on the gradual transition to a market economy was developed in the updated Constitution of Turkmenistan, which is written to deepen market reforms in the economy based on equitable development of different forms of ownership until 2015. At this stage, regulatory and legal framework of different forms of ownership will be improved, bases of privatization and transformation in other forms of ownership of state enterprises of light industry, food industry, services, trade, carrying out economic activity in the external and internal markets will be developed. In addition, it's planned to privatize technologically outdated small and medium-sized enterprises by selling them at auctions, as well as the use of the mechanisms of trust management, corporatization and corporate management of large enterprises. Another direction of institutional changes are expansion of foreign investment, creation and development of joint ventures. The second phase (2016-2020) of implementation of a national program envisages the creation of corporate companies in construction, production of construction materials and in other fields. The third phase (2021-2030) will be characterized by the deepening of adaptation of new enterprises to market conditions, intensive development of internal and external markets.

From http://en.trend.az/ 02/28/2013

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Turkmenistan Introduces Compulsory Environmental Insurance

 

Compulsory environmental insurance is introduced in Turkmenistan from March 1, 2013 for all types of institutions, enterprises and organizations whose activity is deemed environmentally hazardous, except government-financed entities, according to an official Turkmen source. Such insurance is also introduced for foreign legal entities, their branch offices, representative offices and entrepreneurs, the source said. The introduction of this type of insurance will promote forming financial assets to take measures to prevent environmental pollution and create suitable conditions to forecast, prevent and eliminate consequences of environmental disasters. According to a decree signed by Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov during a recent meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, the legal entities and individuals must conclude agreements on compulsory ecological insurance for 2013 by June 1. The decision was made in accordance with the Laws of Turkmenistan "On nature protection" and "On insurance" in order to ensure successful implementation of a number of national programs as well as efficient use of natural resources, environmental safety, etc. Control over the signing of contracts on compulsory public environmental insurance by physical entities and legal entities will be exercised by the Turkmen Ministry of Nature Protection. The Turkmen president approved the regulations on compulsory environmental insurance and the list of hazardous works and facilities to be subject to environmental insurance, and instructed the Ministry of Nature Protection to keep the process of concluding relevant agreements with individuals and legal entities under strict control. The State Insurance Organization, the Ministries of Finance, Nature Protection and Justice were instructed to draft and approve the order of accounting on environmental insurance as well as the regulations on forming and using insurance funds.

From http://www.azernews.az/ 03/04/2013

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Turkmenistan to Establish State Service of Intellectual Property

 

The Ministry of Economy and Development of Turkmenistan is working on establishment of the State Service of Intellectual Property, the official Turkmen source said. The corresponding decree was signed by the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The Ministry of Economy is also required to develop and adopt the provision on the new public service. It is expected to serve the purpose of bringing the national system of intellectual property protection in line with international standards, contribute to promotion of science, technology and culture in the development of the state and society, and guarantee protection of intellectual property rights of persons at national and international levels. Last year, members of the national Majlis (Parliament) approved the new edition of the Civil Code relating to intellectual property rights. The law "On Copyright and Related Rights" was adopted as well. Turkmenistan is in process of studying the issue of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Local experts say that, in general, the possible entry of Turkmenistan in this international economic organization will provide a significant opportunity to strengthen the country's competitiveness in international markets, contribute to the growth of foreign economic relations and, respectively, increase the foreign demand for products and services of Turkmen manufacturers. The European Union, represented by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, suggested Turkmenistan to join the WTO in January 2011.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/08/2013

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UZBEKISTAN: International Solar Energy Institute to Be Created

 

The president of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov confirmed by his decree the proposal of the ministry of economy, ministry of finances, Academy of Sciences and State Joint-stock Company (SJSC) "Uzbekenergo" the creation of International Institute of Solar Energy in Tashkent. According to the decree "on measures for further development of alternative energy sources" the institute will be created on the basis of NGO "Physics of the Sun" of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan with participation of the Asian Development Bank and other international financial institutions. Realization of high-tech projects in the sphere of industrial use of solar energy and preparation of proposals on practical application of solar energy in different sectors of economy and social sphere on the basis of advanced and economically efficient technologies are determined as main goals and directions of activity of the Institute. Institute will conduct applied research related to use of solar energy in different spheres of economy and coordinate creation of documentation on large projects in the sphere of solar energy. President Karimov instructed the cabinet of ministers to adopt a resolution within one month on organization of functioning and on sources of financing the Institute. As reported, on October 2011 ADP allocated a grant of 225 thousand dollars for creation and development of the International Solar Energy Institute in Uzbekistan. It was assumed that the Institute would combine functions of scientific and project organization and will create specific projects in the sphere of solar energy on the basis of scientific calculations. The potential of renewable energy sources in Uzbekistan is about 51 billion tons of oil equivalent, and technical capacity is 17982.3 million tons of oil equivalent, which is three times more than the amount of fuel extracted in the country. The potential of solar energy in this republic with 300 sunny days per year constitutes about 50.973 billion tons of oil equivalent.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/03/2013

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New Research Centre for Economic Development to Be Created in Uzbekistan

 

The Research and Development Centre entitled 'Fundamentals and problems of economic development of Uzbekistan' is being created at the Tashkent State Economic University under the relevant decision of the president. The new structure will be established on the basis of the abolished Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences 'to enhance knowledge of scientific principles and problems of economic development of the country, develop science-based proposals on the priority areas for further reform and modernisation, sustainable economic growth, integrated development of territories, forecasting demographic processes and the labour market '. Uzbek President has instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to organise a personnel certification of the abolished Institute of Economics and provide staffing of the centre with highly skilled and initiative scientists and specialists within a month. As previously reported, in February last year, the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan approved the measures to optimise the structure of the Academy of Sciences, including the liquidation and reorganisation of a number of academic institutions. Property and projects of the liquidated and reorganized scientific institutions were transferred mainly to regional and specialised institutions of higher education, as well as to the newly created scientific and research institutions. Currently, the most authoritative analytical and research structure in Uzbekistan in the field of economy is the Centre for Economic Research (CER). CER was established in 1999 by the Government of the Republic and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The centre provides analytical advice to the government and conducts research on a wide range of development issues. By today the centre has presented over 150 reports and policy briefs on macroeconomic, monetary, fiscal and social policy, public administration, ICT, knowledge economy, administrative reform, economic integration and gender.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/07/2013

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Uzbek Economic Court Extends Temporary Governance in MTS’s Subsidiary

 

The Tashkent Economic Court extended a procedure of temporary governance in Uzdunrobita (a wholly-owned subsidiary of "Mobile TeleSystems" (MTS) in Uzbekistan) until April 22 at its meeting on Monday, a source in government circles told Trend on Monday. "The next hearing on the operator's bankruptcy is scheduled for April 22," the source said. It was previously reported that "Uzdunrobita" appealed to the Tashkent Economic Court with the statement on its bankruptcy in January. This statement was filed due to a failure to fulfill obligations in accordance with the judgment of the Tashkent City Court. According to it, the amount of financial claims towards "Uzdunrobita" was set at $ 600 million. A procedure of observation was introduced and a temporary manager was appointed. At present, according to a final judgment of the court, all remaining funds to the amount of $150 million were written off of Uzdunrobita's accounts. "Uzdunrobita", the largest Uzbek mobile operator, has been under inspection since last June. In July, MTS disconnected the network throughout Uzbekistan at the request of the State Communication Inspection. In September, the Tashkent City Criminal Court decided to transfer Uzdunrobita's property to the state. The total amount of claims made by the Prosecutor General's Office, antimonopoly bodies, Agency for Communication and Information and tax bodies against the company exceeds $1 billion. This is the amount of MTS's investments made in the development of business in Uzbekistan.

From http://en.trend.az/ 03/17/2013

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Global Human Development Report Offers Opportunities for Pacific Islands to Gain from the South-South

 

The Pacific region can take appropriate actions to advance human development, as outlined in the 2013 Human Development Report—The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. The Report was launched in the Pacific, by Nicholas Rosellini, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director for Asia and the Pacific at the Pacific Symposium on Managing Extractive Industries in Pacific Island States to Improve Human Development. The report was released globally last Friday by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at Mexico’s Presidential Palace. The report draws its title from an analysis of the human development index (HDI) performance for 40 developing or countries of the South.  This analysis reveals that in these countries there have been significantly greater HDI gains since 1990 than would have been predicted based on their performance prior to 1990. In presenting the key conclusions from the report, Nicholas Rosellini said  the report highlights that investments in people’s capabilities—especially health, education, and nutrition—and in building resilience to economic, environmental, and other threats and shocks is key to advance human development.

 

“The Report argues that promoting greater equity is not only an important goal in its own right and central to lifting human development. It is vital for stability and sustainability. Inequality slows development and we know that Governments which do not respond to citizens’ needs and ensure opportunities for inclusive growth and political participation, risk losing their legitimacy. This is an important theme for our Extractive Industries Symposium,” said Rosellini. “While not all Pacific Island countries are covered in the human development index (nine of the fifteen), the story for those where data is available suggests little movement since 2011 and in most cases there remains more to be done to regain the places achieved in 2007.” Rosellini said that through South-South Cooperation there were real opportunities for the Pacific as a region to create linkages between development initiatives in different countries, both within the Pacific and further afar.  

 

Pacific Human Development Data Highlights 

One Pacific Island country, Palau is in the high human development group.

Six Pacific Island countries – Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu - are in the medium human development group.  

Two Pacific Island Countries - Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands are in the low human development group. 

• The Asia –Pacific region has one of the highest employment-to-population ratios (74.5 percent), above the world average of 65.8 percent. The employment-to-population ratio range for Fiji is 62.7 percent.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/19/2013

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A Pacific-led Vision for HIV and Other STIs in the Pacific

 

This month Ministry of Health representatives and stakeholders from across the region will come together to determine the future direction of the response to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Pacific. ‘With the conclusion of the Pacific Regional Strategy on HIV and STIs this year, now is an opportune time to take stock of the progress made and decide how best to sustain achievements while identifying priority areas for continued donor support,’ said Dr Dennie Iniakwala, HIV and STI Team Leader at SPC.‘Here in the Pacific, we have some of the highest STI prevalence rates in the world. Our people are therefore at greater risk of contracting HIV. We must not become complacent. We must endeavour to sustain and build on the progress made to date,’ said Dr Iniakwala.To date, over AUD $53 million has been delivered to the region for HIV and STI programming through the Pacific HIV and STI Response Fund and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This investment has led to improvements in the ability of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to address HIV and other STIs.The introduction of rapid HIV confirmatory testing, for example, has greatly improved the turnaround time for HIV results, from 6 weeks to one day in many PICTs, and this has increased the number of people coming for HIV testing.

 

‘These are important achievements. By increasing HIV test accessibility and testing the right population groups in our communities, we are better able to prevent and control HIV in our region,’ explained Tebuka Toatu, HIV and STI Laboratory Specialist at SPC.‘Previously, many laboratories had to send samples overseas for confirmation of HIV test results. However, with the introduction of rapid testing in 13 PICTs, national laboratories are now able to do their own testing, more reliably and efficiently, and patients receive greatly improved treatment,’ said Mr Toatu.Regional strategy review workshops entitled ‘Making waves: Pacific-led strategy for HIV and other STIs,’ will be held with South Pacific and North Pacific HIV/ STI and Reproductive Health Managers in Nadi and Guam on 18–21 March and 25–28 March respectively.They will discuss the need for a renewed regional strategy to guide the response to HIV and other STIs in the region, together with regional partners and workshop hosts UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and SPC. Further consultation will then take place with civil society representatives and other stakeholders.

From http://www.spc.int 03/18/2013

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Women Struggle for a Place in the Pacific

 

Women face greater odds in achieving equal political representation in the Pacific Islands than in any other region of the world, holding just three percent of seats in national parliaments, compared to 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and 18.5 percent in South East Asia. Following the first Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum hosted by the Australian government in Sydney last month, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the longest serving female parliamentarian in the Pacific region, spoke to IPS about the challenges of gaining political office and some of the measures being pursued to redress the stark imbalance. Fiame was first elected in 1985 to the parliament of Samoa, a Polynesian nation located north-east of Fiji and first in the region to achieve Independence in 1962. She is a ‘matai’ or high chief, as was her father, Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II, the first prime minister of Samoa. In addition to representing the Lotofaga electorate in Atua district on the most populous island Upolu, she has served as minister of education, minister for women, community and social development and presently holds the portfolio for justice and courts administration.

 

She was one of 40 female MPs from the Pacific Islands and Australia, including Cook Islands opposition MP Selina Napa, and Delilah Gore and Julie Soso Akeke from Papua New Guinea, who attended the first regional consultation of the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Programme. Part of the Australian ‘Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development’ initiative supported by AusAID, its objective is to increase the professional skills and capacity of women politicians in the region. “It is a good start in terms of saying, yes, people are serious about this,” Fiame told IPS. “We got some clarity around the kind of approaches that could be taken. There is a website that could assist with developing the women’s network to become an information exchange, enabling direct contact between members and research assistance on parliamentary issues and political approaches. You can never get away from candidate training,” she added. “You always have to look, especially if you want to increase the numbers, at beginning to identify women leaders and the training opportunities that could be made available to them.”

 

The Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG 3) on promoting the rights of women, and the Pacific Platform for Action on Advancement of Women and Gender Equality both promote the goal of governments attaining a proportion of 30 percent women in decision-making roles. Samoa, which has two women in parliament, rates at 4.1 percent, the Marshall Islands 3 percent, Papua New Guinea 2.7 percent and Vanuatu nil. There have, however, been some recent incremental gains. In national elections held last year, three women entered parliament in Palau, one was elected in the Solomon Islands and three in Papua New Guinea. Many reasons have been suggested for the persistent disparity, such as traditional patriarchal cultures, historical influence of male dominated colonial administrations, corruption and lack of political party reform, and lack of financial resources and campaigning skills. The reality of the unequal playing field has long been recognised by the region’s leaders, so why the lack of substantial progress?

 

“I think it comes down to the choices women make. Politics is perceived not always in a positive way,” Fiame responded. “I think a lot of women feel it is not their place; that they don’t necessarily like the way things are done, which begs the question: why don’t you get in and change it?” In the 2011 Samoan election nine of 158 candidates were women. “Economic development gives you more choices, so in developing countries the traditional roles of gender are much more entrenched,” she added. “In many Pacific states, the government is not in a position to take care of and provide a safety net for all of its citizens. So people often see that their safety lies with traditional cultural and social networks.” At Independence, the Samoan people chose via a referendum to retain ‘Fa’a matai’, the indigenous system of governance based on elected chiefs, or ‘matais’, who bear responsibility for the affairs and customary lands of extended families. “We don’t have automatic succession,” Fiame pointed out. “When a titleholder passes away, the extended family come together to decide who will succeed. It is very democratic, but it is also a very political process.”

 

Nevertheless, the Lands and Titles Court will arbitrate a decision in the absence of consensus. The Legislative Assembly has 49 seats, of which 47 are reserved for male and female ‘matais’ and two for representatives of Samoa’s diverse communities. “In the Samoan context, women are allowed to hold titles, we do hold titles,” she emphasised. “We do, though, have an issue in that some villages don’t allow women to hold titles, but that is a constitutional issue.” Although 48 percent of the population is female, the 2011 census revealed 89 percent of ‘matais’ were male and 11 percent female. In contrast, there is now gender equality at all levels of education in Samoa with females consistently outperforming male students. Education to change cultural and social attitudes and produce greater voter support for women MPs are long term goals across the region. But temporary special measures, such as quotas and reserved seats, could potentially make a difference, even though women themselves have mixed opinions. “If you talk to many women who have gotten into parliament, most of them will say they don’t support temporary measures,” Fiame said. “But I can take a step back sufficiently to say that we do require temporary special measures, because if something doesn’t happen, you have to have the will to make it happen.”

 

Last year, a constitutional amendment bill was tabled in the Samoan parliament to grant a 10 percent quota of women members, equating to five reserved seats. “It (the Bill) is in its second reading and hopefully it will come through at our next sitting,” she clarified, admitting that one of the “crunch” issues could be the political interests of her male colleagues in view of possible competition from women in their electorates. But she firmly believes that the beginning of a serious dialogue about women in governance throughout the nation is imperative to challenging mindsets. In the meantime, people will be looking to national elections due to take place this year in Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia, and progress in Fiji toward planned democratic polls in 2014 – all nations where women have no elected presence in the halls of power.

From http://www.islandsbusiness.com 03/06/2013

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AUSTRALIA: Ranked Second in UN Development Report

 

The UN Development Program ranks countries after assessing income levels, social equality and access to healthcare and education. New Zealand came in at sixth place, while Tonga dropped four places to 95 and Fiji and Samoa both jumped three places for a ranking of 96. Papua New Guinea was ranked at 156. Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger were bottom on the list of 187 countries and territories. According to the new report, countries in the South such as China, India and Brazil are the main drivers of economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries. The spokesman for the Human Development Report Office at the UNDP, Bill Orme, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia that education has been pivotal in propelling millions out of poverty.

 

"Countries that did double their productivity - India China and many others - in the last twenty years, before that happened they were already investing very heavily in education, especially education for girls," he said. "If there was one single thing you would advise a developing country to do over the long term that will pay off in multiple ways in societal improvement...is ensuring that girls have the same opportunity to be educated as boys through young adulthood." The HDI figures, launched on Friday in Mexico City, combines measures of life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product per capita.

From http://www.radioaustralia.net.au 03/15/2013

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Australia Leverages Robotics Technology for Education

 

Australian Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy has unveiled a landmark project that trials robotics and broadband technology for schools. This initiative enables on-line visitors at nationwide schools to “visit” the prestigious Canberra-based Landmarks Gallery at the National Museum from designated sites nationally. Students from The Cathedral School in Townsville (Queensland), Kiama Primary School in Kiama (New South Wales), and an expert from the Melbourne Museum have just participated in a live demonstration. School children were able to link up with an educational robot sited at the National Museum. This link tapped into high-speed, fast-access broadband communications. This robot has been developed by CSIRO. It is designed to shadow a museum guide during virtual on-site tours. Students can participate in an interactive tour from a computer terminal at their school or local library.

 

The Director of the CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, Dr Ian Oppermann, said this technology has enormous potential for wide-ranging applications. “While culturally significant sites and museums across the globe could use this technology, our goal is to extend and export this Australian technology as a platform for new applications in business, health services, social services and mining,” Dr Oppermann said. The National Museum houses a range of treasurers, including historical archives, prestigious art exhibits, as well as science and technology displays. Access is currently available for schools and libraries that are connected to the National Broadband Network. This project enables multiple remote visitors to have their own “individual experience” of exploring the National Museum – while interacting with their museum educator. Among the features, this robot is designed with an end-user interface that enables a museum educator to ask questions easily and see answers from multiple remote users.

 

The robot is equipped with a 360 degree panoramic camera – while following a tour guide. Broadband links connecting online visitors enable them to independently control their view of museum exhibits. Motorised wheels, as well as navigational and sensing capabilities, ensure the robot follows a guide, while avoiding obstacles and pedestrians. Many Australians – especially at remote locations –cannot easily visit national institutions. These include museums, galleries and cultural spaces. When fully operational, this educational service will support up to 16 students simultaneously over a fibre connection. A typical NBN connection provides high-quality video, data and audio streams from the National Museum to each student each using approximately a 10Mbps downlink. The video and audio for students – from a school back to the museum – requires up to 2Mbps per user. For wireless and satellite connections, the system supports a single user or a class using a “Smart Board.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia 03/22/2013

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COOK ISLANDS: Look at Youth Issues

 

Dozens of Cook Islanders have attended a meeting looking at how to solve youth issues. Police statistics show there were 18 incidents of unlawful taking in January which was reduced to nine in February as the police caught known young offenders. However burglaries, vehicle conversion and thefts went up. The meeting heard about initiatives such as a drug, alcohol and violence-free programme encouraging relationships between children, parents and police. Educators spoke about the global trend of children dropping out school and the role the community can play in preventing that. A new Future for Youth committee has been set up to decide the next step.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/20/2013

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FIJI: Recovering and Sustaining Livelihoods, Communities Continue on Strong After Floods

 

Flood affected families in Nadi who benefitted from Fiji’s first cash-for-work project to recover from the devastating effects of the twin floods of early 2012, had a first-hand chance to share their stories with Nicholas Rosellini, the UNDP Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. Rosellini visited the affected communities in Nadi where he met women, men, youths supported through the cash-for-work programme and visited farms and flood rehabilitation locations. The Cash for Work programme was implemented in Nadi and Rakiraki and benefitted 1,209 individuals, of which 74% were women.  Sofiya Bi was one of 865 participants in the cash for work programme in Nadi. “I was about to start my small store business when the floods came and destroyed everything. I was left with the payment for the groceries I bought for my shop. A few months later, I joined the cash for work programme in Vuniyasi. Some of us sewed the eco-friendly bags while others worked on the farm to earn cash and recover from the floods. I was able to finally open my shop. I also repaired the house damaged by the cyclone in December 2012 using the savings from the cash for work programme,” said Bi.

 

Today, the Vuniyasi group was proud of the result of their teamwork and was one of the three villages who received special recognition for their good cooperation and spirit of commitment during the cash for work programme. “We are pleased to support the communities recovering from the floods and cyclone. I hope this is part of the longer process for recovery and that we will be able to help you continue to be self-reliant. I was heartened by the stories shared by you”, said Mr. Rosellini, speaking to some 100 villagers gathered in Vuniyasi Tuesday. Bi said that in addition to recovering from the floods, the cash for work programme also allowed the community to work together. “A big achievement for us was coming together as a group, learning about different cultures and working with strength, sensitivity and sincerity, which made us feel empowered,” she said. Following the completion of the cash for work programme, 14 communities out of 29 communities in two locations who were supported for agriculture farming formed a small-scale community oriented farming venture. The lessons learnt from the early 2012 flood were put in practice by communities in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Evan in December 2012. Five communities were able to initiate recovery activities by utilizing the money generated from farming activities. The cash-for-work was jointly funded by Australian AID and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and directly implemented by UNDP in partnership with various government agencies as well as UN agencies (ILO, UN Women).

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/20/2013

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NEW ZEALAND: First Pushes Health Insurance Rebate

 

New Zealand First has revealed part of the policy platform it hopes will encourage older people to vote it back into a position of power - tax rebates on health insurance premiums for the elderly. Party MP Andrew Williams has tabled a private member's bill which would allow those holding a SuperGold card, which is available only to those over the age of 65, a 25 per cent rebate against the premiums they pay on health insurance, subject to a maximum of $500 a year. In recent years health insurance premiums have skyrocketed thanks to a mix of increased claims for things like knee and hip ops, as well as "medical inflation" which is the cost of things like surgeons' salaries, drugs, and equipment like prosthetics. That's put an enormous strain on the wallets of superannuitants, many of whom have been downgrading their policies in a bid to keep their insurance in place. Without medical insurance people have to rely on the state system, and that can mean a long and debilitating wait for operations like hip and knee replacements.

 

While tax rebates have been dismissed by the Government as too expensive, NZ First believes it is affordable. It has set out its thinking in the Affordable Healthcare Bill, and it would not just be pensioners able to claim tax rebates. Under the policy, companies would also be exempted from paying fringe benefit tax (FBT) on any contributions they make to the cost of keeping their workers fit and healthy through subsidising health cover. That, the bill says, is consistent with allowing companies to claim tax rebates against the ACC accident insurance premiums they pay, adding that Government should not be sending the "wrong message" to employers who wish to play a responsible role in their employee's health arrangements. The New Zealand First policy is, the preface to Williams' bill claims, a way of encouraging more private spending on healthcare to bring it back into line with other developed countries. "New Zealand's private health spending has fallen below the OECD average of 28 per cent of total healthcare spending. At about 16.5 per cent and downward trending, New Zealand's private healthcare spending compares adversely with Australia's private healthcare spending at 35 per cent," it said. Southern Cross Healthcare, the largest health insurer in the country, has long supported tax rebates on premiums.

From http://www.stuff.co.nz 02/28/2013

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New Zealand Streamlines E-Health with Robotics Technology

 

In a first such project for e-health, New Zealand’s Gore Hospital is rolling out robotics technology to streamline healthcare for home-bound patients and the elderly across remote areas. Gore Hospital’s chief executive Karl Metzler told FutureGov that one in five New Zealander lives in a rural or remote area. “We’re exploring robotics technology to manage healthcare, and reduce pressures on our medical system.” Healthcare-oriented robots and software are being piloted for primary, community and aged care. “We want to understand where robots can best provide improved health outcomes, especially for long-term chronic care patients.” These robots are being developed in partnership with the University of Auckland. This programme will help manage medication – with the ability to monitor vital signs, and relay emergency text alerts to healthcare providers and families. Gore Hospital is a community-based public hospital in a remote part of Eastern Southland. It earlier ran a pilot involving this technology with Selwyn Care. Project partners are assessing the potential for home-based healthcare using robotics technology – especially across hard-to-access areas — with limited access to medical care, and a shortage of doctors.

 

Among the features, robots are being designed to measure vital signs, including blood pressure and heart rate. This data is automatically relayed to clinicians and care-givers to monitor for falls. Robots come equipped with voice recognition technology, and “talk back” to patients, reminding them to take medication. One upside is being able to bridge communication between families and caregivers. Robots “walking” around a room offer levels of “companionship” by proxy. During emergencies, text messages can be sent to designated phone users, flagging a problem, and galvanising help. These problems may range from incorrect medication data through to measuring an abnormal vital sign. “Robots are being designed with the idea of extending independent living,” says Metzler. Other initiatives at Gore Hospital include teaming on telehealth with VitelMed. This telehealth initiative supports remote consulting and virtual care. It tackles the shortage of GPs, high cost of locums, and being able to readily access specialist health professionals. Gore Hospital is also using software from HealthTRX. This is a community care workforce, patient scheduling and tracking mobility system. This solution optimises workflow and reporting functions.

 

Last year, Gore Hospital was selected by the Ministry of Health as a pilot site to trial mobile communications for its district nursing area. Hand-held tablets and mobile devices are being used by nurses to reduce form-filling and paperwork. Mobile communications boost staff efficiency, and help with managing time more efficiently for field staff, often at dispersed locations. “Mobile communications has been very successful with our district nursing team,” notes Metzler. “It improves the productivity of staff by eliminating unnecessary administration and travel time.”

From http://www.futuregov.asia 03/19/2013

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IMF Report Shows Cool Heads Needed on Economy

 

It is always useful to get a global perspective on issues that are the subject of local political wrangling. Light is generally shed on areas that may be clouded by the heat generated by debate. In that context, the International Monetary Fund's annual report on the New Zealand economy is timely. It casts an especially valuable eye over the two questions of most current angst and anxiety, the significantly overvalued dollar and the overheated Auckland housing market. Its conclusions should put an end to much of the irrational comment on how these issues should be addressed. The IMF says there should be no "messing with" the monetary policy framework just because the dollar is temporarily overvalued. Indeed, that framework, including a flexible exchange rate, was one of the reasons New Zealand had been relatively resilient in the face of the global downturn. "Do you want to mess [with] the framework because the exchange rate at the moment is overvalued, and do potentially long-term damage? I would be very reluctant to go down that path," said Bruce Aitken, the head of the IMF team.

 

That represents a strong riposte to politicians who have sought to reap advantage from manufacturers' grievances over the high dollar. It confirms the dangers inherent in, for example, the Greens' call for the exchange rate to be part of the Reserve Bank's mandate. The lower interest rates that flowed from this would, as the IMF notes, remove an advantage held by New Zealand's central bank. Unlike its counterparts in several nations, it still has the scope to cut interest rates if the country were hit by another major shock. Greens co-leader Russel Norman has accused the Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler of complacency and being stuck in the 1980s. This report confirms that Dr Norman's credibility is under far greater threat. On the overheated housing market, the IMF suggests a worst-case scenario involving external shocks could trigger a sudden decline in house prices. It is, therefore, appropriate to equip the Reserve Bank with macro-prudential tools to combat a build-up of systemic risk from rapid house-price inflation. At the moment, the central bank is considering a variety of new measures involving banks' capital and funding requirements and adjusting loan-to-value ratios.

 

Quite correctly, however, the IMF notes these tools come with substantial provisos. There has not been a lot of experience with them in advanced economies, and it says they should be used infrequently and with caution. "The fund's view is they should be deployed in a timely way, not very often and not for very long, and not seen as a substitute for the official cash rate," said Mr Aitken. That, again, tallies with the approach of the Reserve Bank, not its critics. The governor has made it clear that the last thing he wants is an out-of-control housing bubble on top of the overvalued exchange rate and a drought. That is why he is moving quite quickly on these regulatory tools, which are designed to boost the resilience of the banking system while, only at the margin, slowing the housing market. But it is equally clear that they will need refining, and it will be hard to know when to use them most appropriately. It is always tempting to seek miracle cures for vexing problems. That is why the tools being examined by the Reserve Bank have gathered an allure for some out of all proportion to their intended impact. And why some politicians press for lower interest rates, quantitative easing and extravagant intervention in the foreign exchange market. It is never as simple as that. The IMF report is a strong reminder of that.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/20/2013

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Welfare Changes Come Step Closer

 

Sweeping changes to the welfare system came closer to passing into law despite losing the support of New Zealand First and official advice that the changes would lead to a decline in poor families' health. After a fiery, personal debate in which Opposition members accused former beneficiary and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett of "kicking away the ladder", the reforms passed their second reading 61 votes to 60. New Zealand First reversed its previous support for the bill. MP Asenati Lole-Taylor said New Zealand First supported the intention of moving more beneficiaries into work but questioned whether the reforms were fair or effective. The Social Security Amendment Bill would reduce the number of benefit categories and put greater emphasis on finding work, cut benefits for people who failed or refused pre-employment drug tests, and cut welfare for people who turned down a job or had an outstanding arrest warrant.

 

The legislation would also create new social obligations by requiring beneficiaries with dependent children to take all possible steps to enrol under-5-year-olds in early childhood care and a health clinic. Ms Bennett said that despite "hand-wringing" by the Opposition and claims of beneficiary bashing, National campaigned on the changes in 2011 and was overwhelmingly supported by New Zealanders. She said: "This Government does not see people on welfare as victims but as individuals who with the right support can, in most cases, have a better life in work and off welfare. “For those who simply cannot work due to severe illness or disability, we will continue to support them with dignity." Responding to arguments that a stronger job market - not punitive measures - were required to help beneficiaries, she pointed to her party's assistance to employers such as the 90-day trial period and proposed youth wage. But Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei pointed to Ministry of Health advice, released under the Official Information Act, which warned ministers that the economic benefits of the changes could be undermined by health impacts. Families who were sanctioned were likely to defer healthcare and increasingly show up in emergency departments instead of primary care.

 

The ministry also warned that making Well Child checks compulsory for beneficiaries' children could change the relationship between families and health providers and make the system less effective. The debate in the House was often heated, with Labour social development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern attacking Ms Bennett for cutting benefits she once relied on. The minister had earlier told MPs she had "never forgotten where she came from".She was also told off by the Speaker for again calling her opposite number, Ms Ardern, "sweetie".

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz 03/21/2013

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Grappling with Ageing Health Workforce

 

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a Pacific country rich in natural resources, yet its health staffing levels are comparable to the world’s poorest countries due to a rapidly retiring force and lack of qualified replacements. “If we do not do anything about our ageing workforce quickly, the health system may collapse,” former health minister Jamie Maxton Graham told parliament in 2012. Despite repeated warnings of the shortage, first at a 2002 national health conference, again in 2008 during a government health resources forum, and most recently by a 2011 World Bank report, the country still faces what the government calls a “drastic” health worker shortage. The World Bank report predicted a large decline in the “backbone of rural service delivery” (nurses and midwives) - by up to half. All this is unfolding in a mostly rural half-island of seven million residents where the closest health clinic might be hours by boat, foot, or at best, local transport, from the village, said Miriam Lovai, former head of the national midwife association.

 

Rural health care is especially threatened, noted 2011 field research led by Care Australia and the Australian National University. Twice as many infants and three times as many children under five die in rural areas than urban ones, according to the country’s latest census in 2000. Two years since the Bank’s “call to action” report, PNG’s health workforce (mostly nurses and midwives) is dwindling through retirement or attrition while the country continues fighting high malnutrition rates in remote highland communities, as well as high infant and child mortality (57 and 75 per 1,000 live births, respectively).

 

Training

Health experts say the shortage of qualified nurses is due to falling government support to nursing schools, starting in 1999, which has forced the closure of all but three of the eight public nursing schools. The team leader of the World Bank report, Aparnaa Somanathan, told international media in 2011: “I think training capacity in PNG has weakened considerably over the last 10-15 years. There is less and less resources being put into training, so PNG’s ability to train more and more doctors and nurses has declined.” Fourteen community health worker (CHW) schools produce graduates who work mainly in facilities in rural areas - where 90 percent of the population lives - mostly in clinics known locally as “aid posts”. Churches or faith-based groups operate the posts, which are staffed with a nurse or CHW. In areas largely bereft of government services, these posts provide frontline primary care and become the de facto village doctors. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 23 health workers per 10,000 residents to provide basic care, including vaccinations; PNG has five nurses and doctors per 10,000 residents.

 

“Many of our qualified nurses have taken up employment in the resource [oil, gas and mining sector] for better pay and conditions,” said Manga Bengi, a public relations officer with Mount Hagen Provincial Hospital, the country’s third largest hospital in Western Highlands Province. Mineral deposits account for nearly 70 percent of the country’s export earnings. Meanwhile, with poorly-funded health training opportunities, almost no midwives have registered with the state since 2000. However, since the Australian government gave US$120 million last year for midwifery training, Port Moresby reopened four midwifery schools in 2012; a new group of midwives is due to graduate this month. Even so, these graduates will be far outnumbered by the number of health workers expected to retire soon. Out of 570 doctors, 3,429 nurses and 4,400 community health workers, 20 percent have passed the legal retirement age of 55, while nearly 40 percent are 45-55, according to the government in 2012. Nurses will retire the soonest, with more than one-third of specialist nurses (including midwives) expected to retire in the short term, according to a 2011 health profile by the Australia-based University of New South Wales and health think tank Burnet Institute. 

 

What next?

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told local media in December 2012 foreign workers are needed as a stop-gap measure. Port Moresby General Hospital in the capital, which is the country’s largest referral hospital, recently recruited two nurses from the Philippines, but critics say this temporary solution diverts attention from the need to boost local health worker training and retention through improved benefits and pay. About 10 years ago, former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare moved to bring in nearly 100 nurses and doctors from Cuba on temporary work contracts, but the cost and heated opposition from the local medical community of being “replaced” by foreign workers stymied the effort. The present government’s latest bid to import health workers has met similar resistance, but plans proceed uninterrupted. Also, the government recently approved a health workforce plan in 2013. “We know exactly how many nurses we need and a training plan is now put in place to meet our manpower requirements,” chief secretary to the government, Manasupe Zurenuoc, told IRIN.

 

Nationwide there are 28 hospitals, 551 health centres and nearly 2,000 aid posts, which together process up to 10 million outpatients and 200,000 in-patients annually, according to the National Health Department. Zurenuoc added that the National Executive Council earlier this month directed the Department of Personnel Management - responsible for the recruitment and salaries of all civil servants - to finalize salary reforms for CHWs, which will then be submitted for government approval. One proposed change is for the government to do away with a longstanding parallel pay scale system in which CHWs in church-run facilities earn on average 33 percent less than those employed in the public sector. Of the 4,400 community health workers nationwide, church health services employ a “substantial” number of them, according to the country’s Churches Medical Council, which oversees faith-based health services.

From http://www.pina.com.fj 03/15/2013

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Ensure Economic Progress Is Equitable and Inclusive

 

APEC is intent on ensuring that its capacity building efforts better enable member economies to realize free trade and investment while promoting inclusive growth that benefits the small businesses and people of the region. Stakeholders worked to identify avenues for this during a two-day dialogue on laying pathways for resilient and inclusive growth organized by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, an official observer of APEC. In remarks to delegates via teleconference, Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Pangestu described the trends that are guiding the region’s ability to liberalize trade and address facilitation. “The way we do trade has changed tremendously with the fragmenting of production and the global value chain which elevates the need to address supply constraints and improve goods and services access,” said Pangestu. “This is encouraging us to expand our work to reduce tariffs and impediments at-the-border to include more focus on behind-the-border measures, and explore how we can make capacity building more integrated and effective.” Since 1994, APEC Leaders have embraced capacity building and continue to guide the region’s officials in implementing an economic and technical cooperation regime to meet the needs of the global economy. This has shaped the way trade agreements seek to incorporate capacity building components, noted Pangestu.

 

In total, APEC has administered more than 2,000 projects valued at US$140 million. With the goal to promote sustainable growth with equity, APEC aims to help the people of the region reach their full potential. “More attention is being paid to fostering the development of our small and medium enterprises and promoting growth that ensures that gains are equitable and inclusive,” said Luky Eko Wuryanto, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. This includes focus on financial inclusion and women’s role in the economy; boosting food security; identifying a sustainable healthcare system model; and improving environmental sustainability. “APEC’s capacity building work around the region is helping member economies practically address technical barriers and institutional and regional issues,” said Dr Alan Bollard, APEC Secretariat Executive Director. “This is happening at the working group level up and prompting us to more closely evaluate the role of projects.” Particular emphasis is on ensuring that a return is being delivered on the resources going into these projects which currently number about 100, on par with last year’s total. “As we shape our capacity building mechanisms, we have to engage the interests of the entire region to bring us closer to achieving our goals,” Dr Bollard concluded.

From http://www.apec.org 02/25/2013

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The Best (and Worst) Countries for Cloud Computing

 

U.S. moves up, European Union nations slide in the second annual cloud computing scorecard from a leading software trade group. But unlike the virtual realm, the world that appears on a map poses a long list of challenges both to the adoption of cloud computing and the extent to which service providers are willing or able to take their operations global and open up data centers or other operations in new and emerging markets. In an effort to make sense of that patchwork, the software trade group BSA today is releasing its second annual global cloud-computing scorecard, an evaluation of 24 countries' laws and regulations on a host of issues that bear on a company's decision to open shop in a new market. "I would say that it is a solid mix. There has been a lot of progress that we're very hopeful about," says Chris Hopfensperger, technology policy counsel at the BSA. "I think the thing that we see though at the end of the day is that there's good laws and bad laws and you end up with really patchy progress." The 24 countries the BSA evaluated for its cloud scorecard account for around 80 percent of the global information and communications technology market. For the second year in a row, the BSA ranked Japan as the friendliest environment for cloud providers, citing a high rate of broadband adoption, strong laws against cybercrimes and a solid framework to promote security and protect users' privacy. Australia follows in the No. 2 spot, also unchanged from last year, while the United States moved up a position, switching places with Germany to rank No. 3 on the cloud scorecard, though the authors of the report attribute that advance more to the ongoing development of standards and infrastructure supporting cloud computing than any substantive policy measures enacted by the government.

 

Top 5 Countries for Cloud Computing: The BSA's scorecard acknowledges some encouraging signs of activity on the privacy front in the United States, including the Obama administration's expression of support for new consumer-protection legislation and the development of a so-called privacy bill of rights. At the same time, the report notes "the absence of a broader consensus among lawmakers" on what provisions should be included in an online privacy bill. Apart from that debate over broad consumer-privacy protections, the BSA, along with a great many cloud-service providers, is actively lobbying for an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 statute that set parameters for law-enforcement authorities to wiretap phones and gain access to a computer's data transmissions. But as it is applied today, that law, which long predated the general use of email (let alone the cloud), has created considerable uncertainty about the legal protections afforded to Web-based services, as well as some odd circumstances like the ability for authorities to obtain emails without a warrant from a Webmail provider if the communications are older than six months.

 

5 Worst Countries for Cloud Computing: "We are actively and aggressively pushing for ECPA reform," Hopfensperger says. "We really think the time has come to amend a 1986 law that no longer really reflects the technological realities today." The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, has indicated that he plans to work to advance ECPA reform legislation in the new session of Congress. Of the constellation of policy issues that affect the spread of cloud services, Hopfensperger says that none is of greater concern than security and privacy, stressing that consumers and businesses alike will be reluctant to shift data to the cloud unless they are confident that their information will be adequately protected from cyber attacks and not exploited for purposes that they would consider invasive. "Privacy and security are probably talked about more than any other [issue] for a variety reasons. But they are really two sides of the same coin," he says. "Both are key to engendering trust in the cloud. Obviously, cloud computing does no good if people don't want to put their data in the cloud." While the path forward for privacy legislation in the United States remains far from certain, the October 2012 passage of a privacy law in Singapore helped vault that country five spots in the BSA's cloud rankings, moving up from No. 10 to No. 5, making for the biggest single gainer in the scorecard. The BSA praises Singapore's law for taking a "light-touch" approach that codifies a set of principles intended to affirm individuals' right to control their personal information, while at the same time acknowledging that cloud providers have a legitimate need to collect, use and even disclose that data in certain cases. That type of flexible approach, rather than overly prescriptive regulations, is critical to nurturing a regulatory environment that fosters the expansion of cloud-based services, according to the BSA. Singapore "took a big step in 2012," Hopfensperger says, "because they adopted a privacy law that balances the important consumer protections with the need for companies to be able to move data and continue to innovate."

 

In contrast, each of the European Union member countries that the BSA evaluated in its scorecard slipped at least one place, owing in large part to the uncertainty associated with an ongoing effort to reform the body's privacy laws. That debate has aired proposals that alarm the BSA and some of its member companies, including the imposition of "new administrative burdens" and limitations on providers' ability to review data for security purposes, rather than the risk-based, contextual approach to data protection that the group advocates. The BSA also warns against protectionist policies that favor domestic cloud providers while subjecting foreign companies to bureaucratic and operational requirements. Indonesia, for instance, dropped one place to 21st on the BSA's list due to new regulations requiring cloud providers to register with a central authority and mandating that some set up data centers in the country staffed by local workers. The BSA finds similar concerns with other countries that rank poorly on its scorecard. Indeed, the five countries at the bottom of the list -- in descending order, South Africa at No. 20, trailed by Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand and Vietnam -- received the lowest scores of any nation on the BSA's "supporting free trade" criterion. "The real problem areas I think we would say is that some of the countries that are at the bottom of the ranking -- Indonesia, Vietnam -- some of these countries are really taking active steps to chop off a piece of the cloud for themselves," Hopfensperger says. "These things really run counter to what we view as an international approach to cloud policy."

From http://news.idg.no/ 03/07/2013

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Cybersecurity Challenges in 2013

 

The security issues affecting businesses are similar around the world. Most involve employees innocently bringing an infected personal mobile device into the corporate network, or clicking on a social media link that looks harmless but hides a Trojan or worm that will secretly steal data and money and, potentially, remain undetected with severe impact on security of the infected device. The security issues affecting businesses are similar around the world. Most involve employees innocently bringing an infected personal mobile device into the corporate network, or clicking on a social media link that looks harmless but hides a Trojan or worm that will secretly steal data and money and, potentially, remain undetected with severe impact on security of the infected device. And while this this year will see more of that, we will also see major cybersecurity challenges to businesses coming from an increase in exploit kits, an increase in mobile device cybersecurity threats, and more sophisticated threats in general. Let's dive deeper:

 

- Increase in exploit kits: Exploit kits represent the dark but massively profitable side of cybersecurity attacks. Exploit kits comprise malicious programs. They quickly identify and then attack cyber vulnerabilities and spread malware. Exploit kits are created, sold and rented on the black market. We predict they will be increasingly used because of their ease of deployment (rental model) and ease and speed of infection they deliver. The impact of these attacks will be felt in loss of data, IP, identify theft, financial fraud and theft, as well as in diminished business productivity and continuity. We expect to see exploit kits targeting Windows 8, Mac OS X and mobile devices, particularly Android-based, in 2013 as these three targets represent fast-growing segments used by corporates and consumers alike to transact communications, business and commerce. The growth of malware will continue at an explosive pace. In 2012, Dell SonicWALL identified nearly 16 million unique malware samples through its GRID (Global Response Intelligent Defense system) compared to 13.5 million in year 2011. Already, there are around 44,000 new malware samples every day.

 

- Increase in mobile cybersecurity vulnerability: The adoption of near field communication technology for mobile payment systems makes mobile platforms an attractive target for financially motivated cybercrimes. And the increased use of personal devices in businesses -- thanks to trends like BYOD (bring your own device) -- creates entirely new cybersecurity issues, from loss of company data and IP, to financial threat and non-compliance issues, to name a few. As social media continues to be adopted universally for personal and business purposes alike, malware will increase dramatically across Facebook, Twitter and Skype in 2013. This triple threat threatens targeted mobile devices at the point of commerce, through their access to corporate networks and through their access to social media channels. It will be particularly dangerous and become more advanced and prevalent.

 

- Increase in sophistication of cyberattacks: Last year we saw cybercriminals abandon older scareware methods such as fake antivirus scams and move over to ransomware scams. We expect to see this continue and become more global and multilingual, which also represents a growing threat to Latin Ameria. Ransomware attacks lock down a computer, device or service and holds the data hostage, or even threatens court action if the user does not pay. These are very devious attacks that are embedded deep into the computer or device and it is nearly impossible for an average user to regain control over his own system and data. The sophistication and ability to attack and paralyze websites will continue to grow at dramatic pace. For example in 2011, there were 1,596,905 DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks compared to 120,321,372 in 2012. As businesses of all sizes continue to move services and infrastructure to the cloud, the issue of DDoS will be high on many agendas at it has the potential to quickly cripple entire cloud infrastructures.

 

Viruses, trojans, worms and ransomware do not differentiate between a large or small business. They represent the same risk, no matter if you have a lot or only very little budget to invest in network security. Irrespective of the size of your business, these threats can mean loss of profitability and productivity, loss of data and financial assets, and potentially catastrophic loss of business continuity. It is likely that small businesses are more likely to fall pretty to these attacks, because they do not have the budget, IT infrastructure or support that a large business can afford. On the other hand, the more people a business employs, the greater the vulnerability of its network. The most important steps for a business of any size to protect itself from cyberattacks is to be aware of the most obvious and dangerous variants. Second, it is key to educate employees how to recognize and avoid accidentally bringing a virus/malware/trojan into the corporate network. A recent survey by Dell SonicWALL customers shows that 68% of all businesses reported that employees cannot identify fraudulent attacks on the corporate network. It is the dirty little secret of the beautiful world of social networks and mobile device interconnectedness that they are a breeding ground for malware and Internet criminals. Many businesses believe their existing firewalls will protect them from an attack. The reality, however, is that old firewalls pose a serious security risk to organizations today.

 

First-generation firewalls technology has become obsolete as it fails to inspect the data payload of network packets circulated by today's Internet criminals. To prepare and protect from the massive growth in social media, applications, BYOD and multi-media files flowing through a corporate network, entirely new technology is needed. It is today's next-generation firewalls that include advanced technology such as application intelligence and control, intrusion prevention, malware protection and SSL inspection at multi-gigabit speeds, scalable to support the highest-performance networks and protect them effectively from the modern threats every user of email or the Internet encounters on a daily basis. If an organization does business anywhere on the Internet, it is likely not a question of if, but when it will be targeted by cybercriminals. While no protection is ever perfect, there is much that business can do to minimize and deflect the impact of these potential threats. Especially, the IT organization should closely collaborate with the company leadership to identify vulnerabilities lie, prepare with appropriate countermeasures including advanced high-performance, high-redundancy network security components, and educate employees for the best possible defense and protection of business assets.

From http://news.idg.no 03/08/2013

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International Women’s Day 2013: Time to Gain Momentum on Gender Equality

 

In an event to mark International Women’s Day, development experts agreed that the lives of women around the world have improved dramatically, at a pace and scope difficult to imagine even 25 years ago. Two perspectives highlighted the debate on the impact of gender programs. First, looking at the glass half full, there are several aspects for which the international community should applaud.  Women have made unprecedented gains in rights, education, health, and access to jobs and livelihoods. In the last 30 years, 552 million women joined the labor force and today, four out of 10 workers globally are women. In low- and middle-income countries life expectancy among women has increased by 20 years since 1960. And women are increasingly involved in the political realm. Out of the top 10 countries with the highest percentage of female parliamentarians, four of them are in Africa. Second, however, looking at the glass half empty, development experts agree that equal opportunity, regardless of sex, is not only the right thing to do; it is also smart economics. Underinvesting in women puts a brake on poverty reduction.  Research, including the “World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development”, suggests that women usually reinvest a much higher portion of their earnings into their families and communities, compared to men. This year, The World Bank is discussing with its development partners how to build on gender gains and how to make the Bank’s work more effective in supporting girls and women—and thereby development at large—in low-income countries.

 

Scant data on women's earnings, property ownership, and political voice is available. For example, since 2005, there is a lack of data on the share of women in non-agricultural wage work for most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Through the Gender Innovation Lab and other global initiatives, the World Bank is trying to remedy this. In summer 2012, World Bank President Jim Kim launched the Gender Data Portal, which is an important step in aggregating what data exists.  The Bank will work to improve data collection on equality in 10 countries, and then 10 more after that, and so on. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank Research Group is also involved in collecting detailed agricultural data in seven African countries, and this will provide a rich set of data to help build the knowledge base. The World Bank is not only building the capacity of national statistical agencies, but also aims to make sure that it is asking the right questions. Convened by the Bank’s Africa Poverty and Economic Management (PREM), the launch of the Gender Action Plan and Gender Innovation Lab on March 7, 2013, brought together gender and development experts and practitioners globally.  The event included an online audience as well as participants in Washington, Accra, Kigali and Kampala to debate the best way to use results from impact evaluations—studies on the actual impact of development interventions—to improve gender programs.

 

In fiscal year 2012 alone, just over US$29 billion, or 83 percent of the World Bank's overall lending and grants, was allocated to gender-informed operations in education, health, access to land, financial and agricultural services, jobs, and infrastructure.  The allocation was a result of the Bank, together with its partners, making gender a Special Theme of the International Development Association (IDA), which between 2011 and 2014 will provide close to $50 billion in credits and grants to the world’s poorest countries, many of which are in Africa.

From http://www.worldbank.org 03/08/2013

 

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Developing Countries to Get Access to 12,000 Online Research Books

 

Research and academic communities in the developing world are set to benefit from free access to online books. Global academic publishing company John Wiley & Sons has made 12,200 online books available via the Research4Life initiatives — Access to Research in Health (HINARI), Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture and Online Access to Research in the Environment — to 80 low and middle-income countries. Emily Gillingham, chair of Research4Life's Executive Council, tells SciDev.Net that access to these books could help researchers develop better and more informed scientific writing skills; produce focused research that can be discussed with top researchers worldwide; compete more effectively for research funding; and deliver better teaching programmes. "The books are empowering universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental agencies and hospitals, with access to scientific knowledge," Gillingham says. "They span a broad range and … the list is growing each month — for example 600 books from the American Geophysical Union will be added in March," says Gillingham.

 

She adds that, for example, almost 6,000 of the titles are in the fields of chemistry, physical sciences and engineering; 1,200 are medical, nursing and related health titles; and 2,000 are related to life sciences, agriculture and food science. Examples of the books included are Basic Guide to Dental Sedation Nursing; Textbook of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology; and Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics. The Wiley Online Books Collection includes handbooks, dictionaries, companions, encyclopedias and landmark book series from authors and researchers in the life, health and physical sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Mohamed Atani, officer-in-charge of the publishing unit in the Division of Communication and Public information at UNEP (the UN Environment Program) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, says: "Our goal with Research4Life is to provide and support quality research in developing countries in order to advance higher education, inform public policy decisions and ultimately improve quality of life". Atani says that the initiative will enable accessibility to electronic books at no cost to developing countries and equip researchers in places like Africa with information on agriculture and the environment. "The books are very important to universities and policymakers, providing them with information crucial in research and decision-making". The Wiley and Sons announcement was made last month (6 February).

From http://www.scidev.net 03/15/2013

 

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New Index Shows Asia Is Closer but Future Cooperation Will Be Hard Won

 

Asia has become increasingly integrated over the past decade, led by growing trade and tourism and, most recently, as the region faced down the global financial crisis and subsequent eurozone crisis, according to a new integration index published in the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) latest Asian Economic Integration Monitor.“Going forward, greater integration will be harder won as the remaining areas of cooperation are more complex,” said Lei Lei Song, Principal Economist in ADB’s Office of Regional Economic Integration. “Asia needs to avoid complacency and continue to work together in this post-crisis period.” The report warns that the struggles of the eurozone and the fear of the contagion that accompanies greater integration could give Asia’s policymakers pause as they assess the way forward for their region. The index, which monitors foreign direct investment, capital markets, output correlations, trade, and tourism across Asia, shows the level of integration rising from a base level of 100.00 in 2001 to a peak of 233.27 in 2010, when the region was collectively bracing itself against the eurozone crises. Preliminary data for 2011 shows the level of integration tapering off slightly to 192.22, still much higher than in 2007 when the global financial crisis was just beginning. The biannual Asian Economic Integration Monitor notes that in addition to growing intraregional trade and tourism, capital markets have also become tighter knit. During the crises, cooperation stepped up a notch: ASEAN+3 countries acted in concert to expand the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, their regional financial safety net; India offered to finance a South Asian equivalent; and several countries expanded bilateral currency swap arrangements.